Halifax Security Forum 20131124

Canadian Defence Minister Rob Nicholson fields questions at a news conference at the Halifax International Security Forum in Halifax on Friday, Nov. 22, 2013. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

Defence Minister Rob Nicholson says Canada has made a difference in Afghanistan, even as Ottawa prepares to withdraw its troop commitment in March 2014.

Nicholson says Afghanistan is better off for Canada's commitment, but he reiterated that Ottawa has been clear the military component will end in March.

Nicholson made the comments at a news conference wrapping up a three-day international security conference in Halifax.

The U.S. meanwhile, wants Afghan president Hamid Karzai to sign a security deal before the end of this year that would extend the American combat commitment past 2014.

But Karzai says he won't sign the deal until next April's elections, putting in doubt whether the U.S. will keep troops in the country.

During the Halifax conference U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said he needed the deal signed and ratified by the Afghan parliament before recommending to President Barack Obama that U.S. soldiers continue to risk their lives there.