Military families wary about Harper's promise to end Afghan mission

Military families in Edmonton are wary about Conservative Leader Stephen Harper's announcement that he's committed to ending the Afghanistan mission by 2011.

Military families in Edmonton are wary about Conservative Leader Stephen Harper's announcement that he's committed to ending the Afghanistan mission by 2011.

Harper made that promise on the campaign trail Wednesday. 

But family of soldiers at the Edmonton Garrison, one of the largest bases in Western Canada, had a subdued reaction to the announcement.

"You hear things like that all the time, and nothing ever comes from it," said Sherry Drolet, whose husband has served one tour in Afghanistan.

Melanie Johns' husband has also served in Afghanistan. She expressed a conflict between what she wants personally, and what she thinks is best for the mission.

"I'd like to see everybody home of course, for completely selfish reasons,"  Johns said. "It would be nice if they had somebody to take over, so that the work and the people who we've lost isn't for nothing."

Johns questioned the timing of Harper's announcement.

"It kind of feels like maybe it is more for political gain, than really thinking about what's best for the Afghani people and even for  the Canadian soldiers who have worked so hard and sacrificed so much so far," she said.

Her sentiments were echoed by retired soldier Bob Patterson, who thinks the Canadian military need to stay in Afghanistan past 2011 to help stabilize the country.

"Yes, we've lost soldiers and we have a lot of injured soldiers, but the job that they're doing themselves for the Afghan people and the military, I think it would be wrong for Harper to want to pull out prematurely," he said.

Announcement a bad idea: military expert

Rob Huebert, associate director of the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary, said Harper's announcement has made the mission more dangerous for Canadian soldiers.

"When you are in an insurgency war, even if you are planning to withdraw, and one can fully understand why political leadership would think that it is time to withdraw ... you do not publicly announce to your enemy in fact, 'hey we are out of here,'" Huebert said. "Because basically, all they're going to have to do to win is outlast us.

"Now the Taliban will probably take this and use it to step up their efforts to ensure that no other country comes in to replace Canada so it does have the potential, offered as a political statement, of actually seeing to the actual defeat of the mission, unfortunately," he said.

The prime minister's promise to end the mission comes as the death toll for Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan since 2002 approaches 100. One Canadian diplomat has also died in the mission.

Taliban insurgents have stepped up their attacks in Afghanistan in the last month, in what they claim is an attempt to influence Canada's federal election.