Harper defends Afghan mission, blasts
[PoliticsWatch Updated 6:255 p.m. March 1, 2006]
|Prime Minister Stephen Harper answers
questions in the House of Commons foyer on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper strongly defended Canadian troops in Afghanistan and said his government does not plan to have
a vote in the House on the issue.
Harper's comments come a day after a Canadian General assumed command of the multinational force in the southern part of the country.
The NDP and the Liberals, who originally sent troops to Afghanistan while in government, are now calling for a
debate in the House of Commons on Canada's mission.
Liberal defence critic Ujjal Dosanjh said earlier this week a debate is needed to "make sure that the people of Canada believe there ought to be a debate."
But Harper said he was "distressed" when he read some comments from Liberals questioning Canadian involvement.
"You do not send men and women into harms way in a dangerous mission with the support of our party and other Canadians and then decide when they're over there that you're not sure you should have sent them.
"That's not the way this government is going to behave. We are fully behind this mission, we are fully behind these troops."
Harper called the mission in Afghanistan "critical" and "important for global security."
"We believe that the success of this mission is important not just in terms of Canada's objectives, but important in terms of the contribution we are making to the world community and to global security."
However, speaking to reporters after a Liberal caucus meeting,
Dosanjh and Opposition Leader Bill Graham both said they are
supportive of Canada's presence in Afghanistan.
"I am not trying to say that we don't support this
mission," said Dosanjh. "We fully support the mission.
"Just because Mr. Harper wants to say we may not doesn't make
Dosanjh said he is merely pointing out that Harper and his party
have promised in the past to have debates in the House on such
"I think Canadians might learn something from that sober debate
in the House. I think the issue is about Mr. Harper not being able
to keep his promises and some of the criticism getting under his
So far eight Canadian soldiers and a diplomat have died in the four years that Canada has had a presence in Afghanistan.
As for how Canadians feel about the mission, that's debatable.
A poll for Reuters released on Tuesday showed 70 per cent of Canadians support Canada's expanded mission. This is almost the exact opposite result of a Strategic Counsel poll released last week.
Meanwhile, Harper tried to downplay speculation that he could be headed to Afghanistan as earlier as next week.
"I don't have any plans to go there, but obviously in the future if we decide to travel somewhere we'll let you know."
The Canadian Press reported last week that advance security teams were in Afghanistan and Pakistan to prepare for a visit by Harper.
The region is still dangerous and the Prime Ministers Office likely would not want Harper's visit widely known.
U.S. President George W. Bush made a surprise visit in Afghanistan this week.
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