Canada says Afghan mission can't last indefinitely

Tue Oct 7, 2008 5:23pm EDT
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - The history of Afghanistan demonstrates that foreign troops cannot stay there indefinitely in an attempt to completely suppress all insurgency, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Tuesday.

"I don't think believe that we can pacify every corner of Afghanistan as foreign troops. What we can do is establish the basic security and train the Afghan security forces to gradually accept responsibility for the day-to-day security of their country," Harper told CBC television in an interview ahead of the October 14 general election.

No one can accuse Canada of cutting and running by carrying out plans to leave in 2011, he said on Tuesday, adding that such timelines were necessary to be able to hand over control in a reasonable time.

Harper was reacting to comments from senior British and U.S. officers about doubtful prospects for conclusive victory in Afghanistan, with Britain's commander saying the goal was to reduce the insurgency in the country to a level where the Afghan government could deal with it.

"I don't think it's viable, knowing the history of Afghanistan, what we know about it, to believe that foreigners are going to be able to run Afghanistan or Afghan security on an ongoing basis," Harper said.

"So in a sense what these generals are saying is actually agreeing with what the (Canadian) government is saying, which is we're not going as foreigners eradicate every insurgent in Afghanistan."

(Reporting by Randall Palmer; editing by Peter Galloway)

<p>A Canadian soldier keeps watch over the valley in the Arghandabd district of the southern city of Kandahar June 19, 2008. REUTERS/Ismail Sameem</p>