Afghan police officers listen to speeches during a graduation ceremony in February at the Provincial Reconstruction Team compound run by Canadian soldiers and ISAF in Kandahar in February. ((Allauddin Khan/Associated Press))

Canada will step up its training efforts in Afghanistan by sending an additional 90 troops to help train local police and the national army, Defence Minister Peter MacKay says.

MacKay made the surprise announcement in Kabul Thursday morning, just one day after Prime Minister Stephen Harper criticized Afghan President Hamid Karzai in response to reports that he had threatened to quit politics and join the Taliban.

Some of the new troops will be sent to the NATO training centre in Kabul, while others are expected to head to the Kandahar area to support training efforts and help at the Canadian task force headquarters.

"The government of Canada is proud to contribute additional Canadian Forces personnel to prepare Afghans, in order to build a stable, strong and peaceful nation, which they deserve," MacKay said in a statement.

There are currently 2,830 Canadian Forces members serving in Afghanistan. The new trainers will stay in Afghanistan until Canada starts pulling troops out of the country in 2011, MacKay said.

Kabul police make arrests

Meanwhile, police in Kabul are claiming success after officers arrested five men who police allege were planning suicide attacks.


Five men who Kabul police claim were planning suicide attacks are seen at the Afghan National Police crisis unit's headquarters in Kabul on Thursday. ((Musadeq Sadeq/Associated Press))

"If this team had made it through it would have been a disaster as we've seen in past instances," said Abdul Ghafar, deputy commander of the Afghan National Police crisis unit.

Ghafar said he believed the men had been sent by the al-Qaeda linked Haqqani network to attack a busy part of downtown Kabul.

Zemeri Bashary, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said the five were riding in a sport utility vehicle when they were captured while entering the city from the south.

With files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press