- Conservative Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor has once
again put political interests ahead of honesty and
transparency, Liberal Defence Critic Denis Coderre said on
"Every week, the Conservative government adds confusion
to the question of when the combat role for Canadian troops
will come to an end in Afghanistan," said Mr. Coderre.
"This deliberate campaign to mislead Canadians about a
war fought in their name is completely reprehensible."
Appearing on CTV's Question Period yesterday, Mr. O'Connor
said Canada's new rotation of soldiers now arriving in
Afghanistan, the Quebec-based 22nd Regiment, known as the
Van Doos, will be moving away from combat to an emphasis on
training battalions for the Afghan Army. Their goal, said
the Minister, is to have about 3,000 Afghan soldiers on the
ground within six months, at which time Canadian troops
would be better able to move out of the front lines and
"Yesterday the Minister said 3,000 Afghan soldiers
would be enough, but only three months ago, he put that
figure at 70,000," said Mr. Coderre. "In April the
Minister said Canadian withdrawal, which could happen by
2010, is conditional on Afghan forces reaching targeted
levels of expansion, a number agreed to by the international
community to be 70,000 soldiers and 62,000 police. Just
where has the Minister's new benchmark of 3,000 come
Mr. O'Connor's remarks yesterday also sharply contradicted
reported remarks made last week by Chief of Defence Staff
General Rick Hillier, who said that there will be 3,000
Afghan soldiers on the ground in Kandahar by August 1, 2007
and that he didn't expect the Afghan army to be capable
until next spring, nor would it be able to entirely take
over for Canadian troops: "I believe that by spring ...
this organization will be very capable. It won't be perfect.
It won't be stand- alone."
Mr. Coderre also compared the Minister's remarks yesterday
with those made two years ago by U.S. President George Bush.
In August 2005, facing pressure for his policies in Iraq,
the President said "We're also training Iraqis. Our
troops will come home as soon as possible. 'As soon as
possible' means when those Iraqis are prepared to fight. As
Iraq stands up, our coalition will stand down."
"Again we see the Conservatives borrowing from the Bush
playbook," said Mr. Coderre. "Canadians deserve
better than this. If the goal of the Afghan army's
sufficiency comes up empty in 6 months, will further
rotations of Canadian troops also be emphasizing training
instead of combat? The Minister must end the politically
driven double-speak and present a clear and practical
strategy for Canada's mission in Afghanistan."