OTTAWA (Reuters) - The Canadian government left little doubt on Thursday that NATO allies would send additional troops to southern Afghanistan, fulfilling a condition that Canada had set for keeping its own soldiers there.
Briefing reporters ahead of next week’s NATO summit in Bucharest, officials said Canada’s discussions with its allies over providing new troops and equipment were going well.
“We expect to meet our goals, but I don’t feel comfortable speculating on when our allies are going to make their intentions known,” said Sandra Buckler, spokeswoman for Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
On the recommendations of a task force headed by former Liberal Deputy Prime Minister John Manley, Canada has stipulated that 1,000 new troops must be sent to the Kandahar region to reinforce the 2,500 Canadians based there. If they are not, Canada has pledged to end its mission in February 2009.
Two other conditions are that the Canadian operation be provided 1with helicopters and drones.
“We’re very confident that we’re on track to meet all of our commitments,” Buckler said without elaborating.
Canadian officials traveled to Paris last month to lobby the French government, and President Nicolas Sarkozy announced on Wednesday that France would send more troops to Afghanistan, but he did not say where.
Buckler would not confirm speculation that French and possibly Polish troops would go to eastern Afghanistan and free up U.S. Marines to be deployed in the violent Kandahar area, where the Canadians are stationed.
Reporting by Randall Palmer; Editing by Peter Galloway