Rumsfeld thanks Canada for being 'solid ally'
Date: Thursday, February 20 2003
Topic: Canadian Politics
WASHINGTON U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld thanked Canada on Wednesday for agreeing to contribute troops to the peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan. Rumsfeld mentioned Canada in his opening remarks at a Pentagon briefing. "The Canadian minister of defence announced Canada's willingness, beginning in late summer, to commit a battle group and a brigade headquarters to the international security force in Afghanistan for a period of one year," he said.
"Canada has been a solid ally in the global war against terrorism and we thank the Canadian people for their support in defending freedom around the globe."
The U.S. defence chief was referring to Ottawa's announcement Feb. 12 that Canada will send 1,000 or more soldiers to Afghanistan to take part in the international security force policing Kabul, the capital.
Defence Minister John McCallum said the soldiers - likely from the Royal Canadian Regiment in Petawawa, Ont. - and a brigade-level headquarters should be in place by late summer.
They would serve two six-month rotations in Afghanistan - "not in combat as we were before, but in a UN-based peacekeeping force in which, I think, Canadians will take great pride," McCallum said.
Canada deployed an 850-member battle group with American combat troops in Afghanistan last year. It was later withdrawn after they saw Canada's first offensive action since the Korean War. Four soldiers were killed by U.S. friendly fire last April.
The international force in Kabul, of about 4,000 soldiers, is dedicated to peacekeeping and the Canadians are not expected to see offensive military action. But peacekeepers have come under attack from rebels, and 14 have died on duty since the United Nations created the force.
McCallum said the peacekeeping deployment does not rule out a Canadian contribution to a possible war in Iraq, but he acknowledged: "It is true that the more one sends to one place the less one may have available for other places."
Rumsfeld did not mention any possible role for Canada in Iraq in his remarks Wednesday.
By publicly thanking Canada, however, Rumsfeld was making sure that Canadians feel appreciated in Washington for their commitment to the security force for Kabul.
Canadians' sensitivity over any perceived slight by the U.S. administration was apparent early last year when U.S. President George W. Bush thanked a host of countries for their support after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks - but failed to mention Canada.
An outcry prompted the president to make a point of expressing gratitude to Canadians subsequently.