Canada hands over Kandahar battle to U.S.
Canada's desert war came to an end Tuesday when soldiers of the Royal 22nd Regiment stood down and formally handed over their Kandahar battlefield to American units.
The country's legal command responsibility for the western district of Panjwaii will continue for several days.
But Brig.-Gen. Dean Milner's headquarters will be directing U.S. combat units.
Almost all Canadian troops are out of the killing fields of Kandahar, save for a handful of soldiers who will serve for a short while longer attached to American platoons.
4 NATO troops die in 2 attacks
NATO says four of its service members have been killed in two separate attacks in eastern Afghanistan.
The international coalition says three NATO troops died from an improvised roadside bomb and a fourth soldier was killed in a separate insurgent attack.
No other details about Tuesday's deaths were released.
The deaths bring to 280 the number of international troops killed so far this year and nine this month.
— The Associated Press
Parliament ordered an end to the Canadian combat mission in southern Afghanistan back in 2008 and set July 2011 as the deadline.
The Conservative government has since announced that 950 soldiers and support staff will carry out a training mission in the Afghan capital until 2014.
The transfer of battle group command took place at Ma'sum Ghar, the crusted, petrified volcanic mountain soaked in Canadian blood at the onset of fighting in 2006.
The ceremony was an almost understated ending to a war that mesmerized and horrified the country in equal measure, but has now largely fallen off the public agenda.
If Kandahar was a national trauma, Ma'sum Ghar was at its epicentre.
The Van Doos battle group commander says the base is symbolic of much of the sacrifice of Canadians over the last 5½ years.
"Everywhere in battle where Canadian soldiers have sacrificed their lives, we have examples of similar places in a number of our conflicts," said Lt.-Col. Michel-Henri St-Louis. "So Ma'sum Ghar is symbolic and had been at the centre of our deployment and was witness to much of our sacrifices."
The mountain was first captured by troops in the summer of 2006 as fighting raged throughout the districts of Panjwaii and Zhari.
It was turned into camp and used as the launching point for the landmark battle Operation Medusa that fall.
The formal signing ceremony took place in the compound of Afghan National Army troops, whom Canadians have trained and mentored throughout the war.
Lt.-Col. Steve Miller, commander of the 3rd Battalion 21st U.S. Infantry Regiment, said the region he inherited is much quieter than he expected.
"We actually expected this fight to be more kinetic than it had been in the last 30 days," he said. "This area has not seen the spike [in violence] that usually occurs here during the spring following the poppy harvest."
The majority of the lull can be attributed to the Van Doos, who uncovered and seized large weapons caches over the last six months, he said.