KABUL (Reuters) - NATO countries have agreed to send more troops to the volatile south of Afghanistan, Canada’s foreign minister said on Saturday, and another 200 Canadian troops could also be deployed.
Canada has some 2,500 soldiers in Afghanistan, most of them stationed in the southern province of Kandahar where they have suffered one of the worst casualty rates fighting a resilient Taliban insurgency.
“We’ve been talking with our NATO allies and in fact we do now have commitments to increase the number of troops particularly in the Kandahar region,” Canadian Foreign Minister David Emerson told a news conference in Kabul.
“We’re really more comforted that the troop support is being increased in an appropriate way,” he said.
Canadian soldiers first came to Afghanistan in late 2001 as part of a U.S.-led Afghan mission to overthrow the hardline Taliban. In 2006, Canadian troops took over operations in Kandahar, the Taliban’s former de-facto capital.
Faced with some of the fiercest fighting in Afghanistan, Canada has criticized other countries for refusing to send troops to the south, where the insurgency is strongest.
Asked if Canada was going to increase its own contingent in Afghanistan, Emerson said it could send some 200 soldiers.
“Canada does have 2,500 troops here in Afghanistan and that number could expand to 2,700 as more equipment arrives,” he said.
“We are really talking about a significant increase in the contribution from other countries and that contribution has been forthcoming,” he said.
Emerson, on his first trip to Afghanistan since taking office in May, said he had visited “his team” in Kandahar and Kabul to ensure they were well organized.
Asked if more troops were the only solution in Afghanistan, Emerson said there needed to be a more “complete reconciliation.”
“But it is going to take some military capacity and military activity to get Afghanistan to the point where a more comprehensive, a more permanent solution can take effect,” he said.
Reporting by Jonathon Burch; Editing by Mary Gabriel