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Canada announces panel to review future of Afghan mission 
Politics Watch News Services
October 12, 2007, updated 11:30 a.m.

Canada's current combat mission in Afghanistan is scheduled to end in February 2009.

OTTAWA  (PoliticsWatch.com) —  Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Friday the creation of a five-person, non-partisan panel that will make recommendations to Parliament on Canada's future role in Afghanistan. 

The Independent Panel on Canada's Future Role in Afghanistan will be chaired by John Manley, a deputy prime minister in the Liberal government of Jean Chretien

Other members of the panel include Jake Epp, a former Conservative cabinet minister, Derek Burney, the former Canadian ambassador to the U.S., Paul Tellier, former Clerk of the Privy Council and Pamela Wallin, former broadcaster and Canadian Counsel General in New York. 

The panel will report its findings in February of next year, a full year before Canada's current mission in Afghanistan is scheduled to expire. 

Harper told reporters at a press conference that the panel will look at four future options for Canada's military in Afghanistan: 

> Continue its role of providing security and training the Afghan police and army; 

> Reconstruction in Kandahar; 

> Move Canada's security and reconstruction efforts to another region of the country; 

> Or a withdrawal of Canadian troops in February 2009. 

Harper said he set up the panel to ensure Parliament will have a non-partisan debate on Canada's future role in Afghanistan. 

He said the panel members were selected on the basis of their expertise and not on their political affiliation. 

The opposition parties have been calling for the Conservative government to change Canada's mission in Afghanistan. The NDP wants the troops out immediately, while the Liberals and the Bloc want the combat mission to end in February in 2009. 

"Our government wants a full, open and informed debate about our options," the prime minister said. 

Harper was joined at the press conference by Manley, who said he informed Liberal leader Stephane Dion of his decision to chair the panel on Thursday evening. 

"I explained to him that I find this role goes beyond partisan politics," Manley said. "He agreed with my decision."

Manley said the panel will travel to Afghanistan and will also seek input from foreign policy, defence and development experts in Canada. 

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