Canada foresees new NATO assistance in Afghanistan

Fri Mar 28, 2008 4:07pm EDT
 
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada expects to win new military assistance from its NATO allies, which will allow it to extend its combat mission in southern Afghanistan, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Friday.

Harper made the comments to reporters ahead of next week's NATO summit in Bucharest, where Canada's demand for reinforcements and new equipment will be a central topic of discussion.

"I anticipate in the weeks to come there will be additional commitments made in Afghanistan by some of our allies," the prime minister said.

"I also fully anticipate that that will result in Canada having a partner in Kandahar, in Canada receiving both the troops we're looking for in Kandahar and the equipment. I have a very high level of certainty of that."

Canada has agreed to extend its Afghan mission to July 2011 from February 2009, but only if its allies provide about 1,000 more soldiers to the Kandahar region where Canada's 2,500 troops are stationed. Canada also says it must have helicopters and drones for its mission there.

"I don't think we will necessarily finish that process at Bucharest but we will finish it in the very near future. It's all moving along very well," Harper said.

"But what I think is encouraging in the process is not just that we will receive a partner in Kandahar but this will be reflective of, frankly, a greater engagement of NATO allies in Afghanistan generally."

Harper was speaking in the northern Quebec town of Kuujjuaq and his remarks were relayed in a media pool report.

The three-day summit of the NATO alliance begins next Tuesday.

(Reporting by Randall Palmer; editing by Rob Wilson)

 
<p>Major Jean-Sebastien Fortin of Canada from the NATO-led coalition moves under fire moments after his position was hit by Taliban shells from an 82-millimeter recoilless rifle during an ambush in Zhari district of Kandahar province, southern Afghanistan, October 23, 2007. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly</p>