World

Work not complete, PM tells troops in Afghanistan

Prime Minister Stephen Harper rallied the troops in Afghanistan Wednesday with the message that their mission in the war-torn country must continue.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper rallied the troops in Afghanistan Wednesday with the message that their mission in the war-torn country must continue.

In an unspoken dig at his political opponents, Harper told about 300 soldiers in the morning it would be wrong to pack up and leave or guarantee a pullout date in advance.

"You know that your work is not complete," Harper told the assembled troops on a ball-hockey rink at Kandahar Airfield.

"You know that we can't just put down our weapons and hope for peace. You know that we can't set arbitrary deadlines and simply wish for the best."

The Liberals want Canada to withdraw its troops when the current mission expires in 2009 and the NDP wants to pull them out immediately.

Harper touched down unannounced in Afghanistan Tuesday to see first-hand the development of Canadian aid projects in the country and to meet with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

The surprise two-day visit began Tuesday morning in the capital Kabul, where Karzai met with Harper

Borrowing a line from Karzai, Harper told the troops they stand among the greatest citizens of their time.

"Karzai said that 'If the greatness of a life is measured in deeds done for others, then Canada's sons and daughters— who have made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan— stand among the greatest of their generation,'" Harper said.

"Each of you stands among the greatest of your generation. You are Canada's sons and daughters."

"And your country— as much as this country— owes you a debt of gratitude and its unwavering support."

Plenty of change: Harper

He said thanks to Canada's help, Afghanistan has seen democratic elections, greater human rights and the construction of schools and health-care facilities.

He said Canadians truly show their values when they put themselves on the line to defend them.

Harper began the final day of his two-day visit to Afghanistan by having breakfast with soldiers in the mess hall, delivering a speech and offering a gift of hockey sticks and balls.

He was introduced to the soldiers by Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor —who said the prime minister has shown historic leadership in his multibillion-dollar effort to refurbish the military.

"He is totally committed to rebuilding the Armed Forces," said O'Connor, a retired general.

"There hasn't been a prime minister over the last 50 years that supported the military as much as he does."

now