Canada Kicks Ass

Canadian troops to leave Afghanistan
Date: Sunday, June 20 2004
Topic: Military, Security, and Defence

Canada has turned down a request from the U.S. State Department to delay withdrawing its 2,000 troops from Afghanistan this summer.

Americans, worried about potential violence during Afghan elections this fall, wanted Canadians to act as a rapid reaction force and stay put past their scheduled departure this summer. "This started two or three weeks ago," said Darren Gibb, spokesman for the Defence Department in Ottawa.

"What the Americans are looking for is not exactly what our troops are trained to do," he said Friday.

"A determination has been made that we're going to rotate our troops back."

"A determination has been made that we're going to rotate our troops back."

Canada has made up about 40 per cent of the NATO-led forces of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. The 2,000 soldiers will depart at staggered times from the end of July through mid-August.

They will be replaced by Europeans. Canada will rotate into the country up to 700 armoured reconnaissance squad troops in September with another 200 soldiers for air support, said Gibb.

U.S. officials are expected to apply more pressure on Canada and other NATO countries during the alliance's annual meeting June 28 in Istanbul.

Gibb didn't want to speculate about whether Canada's decision could change.

"The picture is pretty clear. We fulfilled our commitment. As of today, there's no intention to change that position."

The U.S. government has made no secret of its desire to see Canada stay. The State Department's Afghanistan co-ordinator, William Taylor, recently told the Middle East Institute that it would be a good idea if Canada could stay an extra month.

"It would be good, we're suggesting, if the Canadians could stay on an extra month, if the Europeans could get there on time in August, so that in September you'd have an overlap," said Taylor.

"In September you'd have, therefore, nearly double the number of troops you would otherwise have."

Gibb said Foreign Affairs officials responded to the U.S. request after consulting the Defence Department.

"We talk regularly to Canada and our other NATO allies about how to best provide support, although formal requests and decisions on troops and requirements rest with NATO," said State Department spokesman Jay Greer.

Source: Beth Gorham | Canadian Press

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