Canada

Navy, air force won't serve as infantry in Afghanistan: O'Connor

Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor denied on Monday that there are any plans to have sailors or air force members take part in ground combat in Afghanistan.

Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor denied on Mondaythat there are plans to have sailors or air force members take part in ground combat in Afghanistan.

Speaking in the House, O'Connor also denied reports thatthe government would increase the time served by its troops in Afghanistan to nine months, up from six.

"There is no intention of employing sailors or airmen or airwomen in infantry roles," O'Connor said. "As well, there's no intention of extending the time that people are in Afghanistan if they're in active operations."

O'Connor was responding to reports that the Department of National Defence was considering the option of "re-roling" troops,which means using membersfrom other services ofthe Canadian Forces in infantry roles.

Last week, Gen. Rick Hillier, the chief ofdefence staff, said the Armed Forces would be looking outside combat units to find troops.

Hesaid the demands of the mission are prompting military commanders and defence officials to look for new ways of finding personnel.

"We will re-role people that are in the training system right now but who are designed to be something else," Hillier told the Commons defence committee.

"We'll say, 'For the next two or three years, you'll be infantry, and then go back to your primary role.'"

On the weekend, Brig.-Gen Mark Skidmore, who is in charge of army forces in Western Canada, said the military wants to increase the time served by its troops in Afghanistan to nine months.

Canada has more than 2,000 troops serving in Afghanistan and is in charge of NATO forces in the south.

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