A hat tip to to Mark at The Torch for beating me to it, but here’s what the Prime Minister told CanWest News this week about the future mission in Afghanistan:
We have been working on those answers but the bottom line is that the military mission will end in 2011. There will be a phased withdrawal, beginning in the middle of the year. We hope to have that concluded by the end of that year. As you know the Obama administration, not coincidentally, is talking about beginning its withdrawal in 2011, at the same time we are. We will continue to maintain humanitarian and development missions, as well as important diplomatic activity in Afghanistan. But we will not be undertaking any activities that require any kind of military presence, other than the odd guard guarding an embassy. We will not be undertaking any kind activity that requires a significant military force protection, so it will become a strictly civilian mission. It will be a significantly smaller mission than it is today.
About nine weeks ago, the PM had this to say:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, speaking at the conclusion of a Commonwealth leaders’ summit in Trinidad, said he doesn’t see any enthusiasm among Canada’s 308 MPs for prolonging or expanding this deployment. “I don’t sense any desire on the part of Parliamentarians to do that,” he said …. “We will want to have some Parliamentary input but I don’t sense a desire on the part of any party to extend the military mission.”
Well, it appears the PM’s gotten whatever “Parliamentary input” he feels he needs and, if you believe the “competing camps” read of the Mambo, the PM has “won”. No surprise, really, since he is where the buck stops.
Where will the “humanitarian and development missions” be carried out? I can’t think of too many places in Afghanistan where such work doesn’t require “any kind of military presence”?
As a follow-up, who’ll be protecting those carrying out the “humanitarian and development missions”? Other military forces? Private security forces? The goodwill of the Taliban? Barring any change of heart on the part of the Taliban, I’d be pretty uncomfortable with doing this kind of work given Mullah Omar’s team’s track record on this (more here and here).
More, as we hear it piecemeal.