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Should Canada expand its involvement in the Mali conflict?

Categories: Canada, Community, Politics, World

UPDATE Jan. 29: Canadian special forces are on the ground in Mali to protect Canadian assets such as the Canadian Embassy in the capital Bamako, CBC News reported Monday.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in question period that the special forces troops are not there to train Malian troops -- and they are not involved in any combat role.

Nor are the forces related to Canadian crews who have been piloting and supporting a C-17 transport plane in support of French troops since Jan. 18. That mission was extended last week until Feb. 15.

Original post Jan. 22:

Canada's military involvement in the conflict in the West African nation of Mali involves a single transport aircraft and its crew to assist in relocating French equipment, but that could change. 

Canada's C-17 transport plane left Trenton, Ont., on Jan. 15, but preparations for Canadian involvement in Mali began as early as March of 2012, soon after the coup that toppled Mali's democratically elected government.   

 Former Canadian diplomat Robert Fowler, captured and held by al-Qaeda in Mali for 130 days in 2008, urges Canada to intervene. (CBC)The United States also got involved on Monday, offering its own C-17 transports. The British contribution also consists of two transport aircraft in a similar role to Canada's.

The rebels behind the insurgency in Mali have imposed a brutal form of Islamic law in the northern part of the country, and a Canadian held by the same rebels says they won't stop there. 

Former diplomat Robert Fowler, who was held captive for 130 days by the insurgents fighting in Mali, has long urged Canada to intervene

"Their vision is to spread their jihad across the widest part of Africa... To create a zone of chaos and horror in which, they believe, their jihad will grow," Fowler said on CBC News Network Jan. 15. 

The Canadian C-17's stay in Mali will likely be extended this week, and last week, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird left the door open to an expanded role for the Canadian military in Mali

"Obviously, if France has other requests, we'll consider them in a thoughtful way, as you'd expect," he said on CBC's Power & Politics Wednesday. 

However, Baird repeated Canada's position that Canadian troops would not be placed "on the ground."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has ruled out any "direct" Canadian military involvement. Retired major general Lewis MacKenzie says this reluctance is likely due to political fatigue with Canada's involvement in Afghanistan

"I think that's definitely a factor," said MacKenzie. "Sure, the troops were popular, but the mission was never popular with the way NATO botched it."
Should Canada expand its involvement in the Mali conflict? What should Canada's role be in Mali? Let us know what you think. 

(This survey is not scientific. Results are based on readers' responses.)

Tags: Canada, Community, Politics, POV, World

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