Politics

Afghan withdrawal plans 'clear': Natynczyk

Canada's top soldier says the military has been given "very clear" instructions on the planned withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan next year.

Canada's top soldier says the military has been given "very clear" instructions on the planned withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan next year.

Gen. Walter Natynczyk, Canada's chief of defence staff, also wouldn't speculate during a news conference in Ottawa Monday on possible troop deployments in Afghanistan beyond the 2011 combat mission end date.

Gen. Walter Natynczyk, Canada's chief of defence staff, left, holds a joint news conference with U.S. Admiral James Winnefeld, commander of Norad, at National Defence headquarters in Ottawa on Monday. ((Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press))

Opposition MPs returning from an all-party trip to Afghanistan last week suggested they would be willing to come to an agreement with Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives over a continued role for Canadian soldiers in the country beyond next year.

But Natynczyk said his job is to focus on fulfilling the missions "as given" to the Canadian Forces.

"It's not even worth from my standpoint speculating about future operations on those kinds of things," Natynczyk told reporters during a joint news conference with the new NORAD commander, U.S. Admiral James Winnefeld, at National Defence headquarters.

"We have got very clear instructions from the government of Canada to move out on the withdrawal and that is what we're going to continue to plan on."

At the end of their five-day visit to Kandahar and Kabul last week, most members of the special parliamentary committee on the Afghan mission said they believe Canadian troops should have a role in Afghanistan beyond 2011, but one that would focus on training instead of combat.

But when asked about the MPs' comments, the prime minister would only say they were "noted with interest," and then reaffirmed the government's view that the resolution adopted by Parliament in March 2008 "continues to be our work plan."

The motion calls for Canada to "end its presence in Kandahar as of July 2011" and for all forces to have left by the following December.

Harper subsequently said the vast majority of troops would be out of Afghanistan, and not just Kandahar, by the deadline.

But Defence Minister Peter MacKay has said Canada is willing to continue mentoring Afghan police after the troop disengagement begins next summer.

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