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Visiting MPs tour Afghan army base

A group of MPs visiting Canadian troops in Afghanistan toured an Afghan army base Thursday near Kandahar airfield's main security zone, their first trip outside the area.

A group of MPs visiting Canadian troops in Afghanistan toured an Afghan armybaseThursday near Kandahar airfield's main security zone, their first trip outside the area.

Eight members of the Commons defence committee are in Kandahar to assess the Canadian mission to the country. The group had been confined to the Canadian base at Kandahar airfield since they arrived on Tuesday, under orders from Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor.

But Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett said she and her colleaguesdrove about a kilometre Thursday to Shirzai, an Afghan army base where Canadians are helping train Afghan soldiers.

"Technically, they went outside the wire, but they were still within a secure perimeter of the airfield," said CBC reporter Susan Ormiston from Kandahar.

Clad inhelmetsand flak jackets, the MPstravelledin a Nyala RG-31 armoured truck, which is known for its ability to withstand blasts.

"We were suited up and convoyed out to the Afghan army base,"Bennett told CBC Newsworld. "It isn't that far away, but it sure was a procedure to get us there, with our helmets and our gunners."

Bennett said the MPs are viewed as "high-value targets" for militants.

"Just on the road outside of here between the airfield and Kandahar, there have been a number of incidents. I guess they want to make sure we're not a part of that," she said.

Bennett said Afghan soldiers at the base were pleased to see the MPs.

"They were effusive in their praise of the mentoring they're receiving from Canadian soldiers," she said.

It's the all-party committee's first visit to Afghanistan since the first wave of Canadian troops landed in 2002. The group is charged with monitoring the mission for Parliament.

"The main thing is for us to understand the role of the military here," she said. "Canadians want to know and make sure that what we're doing is effective."

More than 2,000 Canadian soldiers are serving in Afghanistan. Forty-four soldiers and one diplomat have been killed since the mission started.