VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Canada still does not know which NATO country will supply the extra troops Ottawa has demanded as a condition for remaining in Afghanistan, Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier said on Wednesday.
But Bernier said he remains optimistic the 1,000 soldiers will be found to work with Canada’s 2,500-strong combat mission in southern Afghanistan near Kandahar where it is fighting Taliban forces.
“Who is going to give us troops? Who is going to be our partner? I don’t know that. But I am optimistic because it is important to the credibility of NATO that we will be able to find a partner,” Bernier told reporters in Ottawa.
Canada’s mission in Afghanistan is currently due to end in February 2009, but the government has agreed to remain until 2011 if another NATO country agrees to supply the added troops Ottawa says are needed for the mission to succeed.
The extension was the result of a compromise between the minority Conservative government and the opposition Liberals, who had pressed for a quicker pullout. The measure will go to a vote in the House of Commons on Thursday.
Bernier indicated that Canada is not interested in seeing the 1,000 soldiers made up from a series of smaller contingents from several nations. The support needs to be from one country that does not place restrictions on how much combat their forces can engage in.
Eighty Canadian soldiers have died in Afghanistan and polls show the public is split on the mission.
Reporting Allan Dowd; editing by Rob Wilson