Canadian party leaders are talking tough in reaction to Taliban claims that insurgents have stepped up their attacks on Canadian troops in Afghanistan in an attempt to influence the Canadian election.

The militant group wants the next government to stop sending troops to Afghanistan, a Taliban spokesman told CBC News on Tuesday. 

The Taliban threat is "reprehensible," NDP Leader Jack Layton said, adding that Canadians will decide Canadian policies.

Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion told reporters he refuses to be intimidated by the Taliban, and that the Liberals would keep troops in Afghanistan until 2011.

"All party leaders should put partisan politics aside and rally behind our troops and their mission. And Parliament has made a decision on this matter," said Dimitri Soudas, a spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Afghanistan will be troop 'graveyard,' says Taliban

The Taliban spokesman said earlier that Canada has come under U.S. influence.

"Our message to the Canadian leaders, the Canadian people, the Canadian government and all the Canadians is that they should not send their sons to Afghanistan, where they will die for the benefit of the Americans," Qari Muhammad Yussef told CBC News in Kandahar.

If Canadian forces do not withdraw, he said, "Afghanistan will be a graveyard for them — as it was for them in the past."

Yussef said he's familiar with Harper but isn't sure about the other candidates or parties running in the election.

With files from the Canadian Press