U.S. wants Canada to stay in Afghanistan: Clinton

The United States would like Canada to stay in Afghanistan beyond 2011, the year Canada is scheduled to end its combat mission in the country, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told CBC's The Hour.

The United States would like Canada to stay in Afghanistan beyond 2011, the year Canada is scheduled to end its combat mission in the country, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told CBC's The Hour.

"It's up to Canada to decide how you deploy your forces," Clinton told host George Stroumboulopoulos in an interview that will be aired Tuesday evening.

"But I'm not going to sit here and tell you we're happy about it because …  that wouldn't be telling you the truth. We'd love to have Canada stay in this fight with us. But again, you know, you've got your own considerations and we respect that."

Clinton is in Ottawa attending a meeting of G8 foreign ministers to prepare for the G8 leaders summit in Ontario's Muskoka region in June. She also attended a meeting of representatives from the five Arctic coastal states near Gatineau, Que., on Monday and will meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Tuesday morning.

To date, there has been no formal request from NATO for Canadian troops to stay in Afghanistan past 2011. Canada began its Afghan mission in 2002. 

Last week, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon reiterated in the House of Commons that the end date has not changed despite a Globe and Mail report saying the U.S. government would ask Canada to keep as many as 500 to 600 soldiers in Afghanistan. He again ruled out any form of military mission beyond 2011 late Monday evening.

However, he added the government is looking at non-military roles past that deadline, which was something Clinton mentioned to Stroumboulopoulos.

"We do need non-combat forces, for example, for training and logistical work," said Clinton. "The Canadians and the Americans get along so well."

In 2008, Parliament passed a motion to keep soldiers in Kandahar until 2011. Leaving military trainers in Kabul after the 2011 pullout date would still comply with the federal government's commitment to end Canada's role in the fighting.

In December 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama committed 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan but also pledged to begin withdrawing U.S. forces beginning in July 2011.

The additional U.S. troops will include about 5,000 trainers, underscoring Obama's emphasis on preparing Afghans to take over their own security.

Canada has at least 2,500 soldiers in Afghanistan serving under NATO. Since 2002, 141 Canadian soldiers and two civilians have died during the mission.


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With files from The Canadian Press