Canada to boost aircraft presence in Afghanistan

Wed Nov 26, 2008 5:37pm EST
 
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada is sending 250 more military personnel to Afghanistan, an increase of 10 percent, to help deploy helicopters and drones in the country, a Defense Department spokesman said on Wednesday.

Defense Minister Peter MacKay said eight Griffon helicopters would be sent to Afghanistan early next year to act as escort aircraft for recently acquired Chinook medium- to heavy-lift choppers. Canada is also taking delivery of unmanned aerial vehicles to help with reconnaissance.

MacKay spokesman Dan Dugas said the aerial deployment would increase the number of Canadian Forces personnel to 2,750 from 2,500.

The announcement was made on the same day that Afghan President Hamid Karzai told a news conference in Afghanistan that he would bring down U.S. planes bombing villages if he could.

Canadian Trade Minister Stockwell Day, head of a cabinet committee on Afghanistan, said Karzai's remarks were made during an election campaign but he could not understand them.

"The comments that were made today are something that President Karzai will have to explain. I can't understand them and the full context or the motivation behind them," Day told a news conference.

Day added that Canada was in Afghanistan at the invitation of government, and would remain until its troops are scheduled to pull out in 2011. He added was satisfied with progress there, even though security conditions this summer were worse than in the previous year.

(Reporting by Randall Palmer; editing by Rob Wilson)