Canada 'to extend' Afghan mission.
Canada could keep up to 1,000 soldiers in a non-combat role in Afghanistan through 2014 as part of
a plan to extend its mission beyond a mid-2011 deadline.
CBC public television reported on Monday that up to 750 trainers and at least 200 support staff would work outside the combat zone at a training academy or large training facility for Afghan soldiers and
On Sunday, Peter MacKay, Canada's defence minister, said Canada was "considering" keeping troops in the war-ravaged nation beyond its parliamentary-mandated mid-2011 exit.
His comments came just two weeks ahead of a Nato summit in Lisbon, just as Canada comes under growing pressure from the United States and other allies to extend its Afghan mission.
A popular plan
While Canadian troop deaths are a source of controversy and political bickering, the plan has been supported in both national newspapers.
The Globe and Mail called the planned extension "a welcome development" while a National Post editorial noted the fragile state of Afghan security forces and the need for more Nato support.
The head of Canada's opposition Liberals, Michael Ignatieff, asked the Conservative government for more information Monday on plans to possibly extend the nation's Afghanistan mission. Although Ignatieff has previously said he supported the notion of extending the mandate for Canadian soldiers in a limited, non-combat capacity, he kept mum about the Liberals' position on the matter.
Ignatieff urged Prime Minister Stephen Harper to hold an "open discussion" with the Canadian people first.
Dimitri Soudas, Harper's spokesman meanwhile said the government was studying three options for Afghanistan: "aid, development and military training in a non-combat role."
He also told CBC that any potential training mission beyond the 2011 deadline would take place outside Kandahar.
MacKay stressed that regardless of whatever decision is made, Canada's 2,800 combat troops now routing insurgents as part of the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force would come home
Canada currently also has 400 troops training Afghan soldiers to take over security from ISAF.
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