Canada’s Afghan mission over in 2011

Associated Press / March 31, 2010

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OTTAWA — Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper told Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton yesterday that Canada’s military mission in Afghanistan will end in 2011 despite US hopes of an extension.

Clinton went on Canadian television on Monday and said the United States would like Canadian troops to remain in Afghanistan past 2011 and suggested they could switch from a combat to a training or logistics support role.

But Dimitri Soudas, a spokesman for Harper, said Harper told Clinton that after 2011, Canada will be involved in a civilian mission focused largely on aid and reconstruction.

Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon also ruled out any form of a military mission post-2011 at a news conference late Monday after Clinton’s remarks.

Harper and Clinton met for 20 minutes on the sidelines of the Group of Eight foreign ministers meeting in Ottawa.

Clinton had told CTV news that the United States “would obviously like to see some form of support continue’’ after 2011.

Harper has said Canada does not have the appetite to keep its soldiers in Afghanistan longer.

Canada’s Parliament has mandated that the military mission in southern Kandahar Province end in 2011. Canada has about 2,900 troops there.

Canada has lost 141 soldiers and one diplomat in Afghanistan since it first sent troops there after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States.