Joined: 02 Mar 2009
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Posted: Thu May 07, 2009 9:25 am Post subject: Harper makes surprise visit to Afghanistan
Harper makes surprise visit to Afghanistan
By Terry Pedwell, THE CANADIAN PRESS
Canadian soldiers listen to Prime Minister Stephen Harper as he makes a speech to the members of Task Force Afghanistan at Camp Kandahar in Afghanistan. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - An injection of thousands of U.S. soldiers into Afghanistan will help Canada refocus on reconstruction and other aid projects, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said during a surprise visit to the war-ravaged country.
But the bolstering of NATO troop levels will also lead to more violence, said Canada's top soldier. Harper left Afghanistan after paying a surprise visit there Thursday, where he greeted Canadian troops and toured one of Canada's signature Afghan rehabilitation projects.
The 17,000 American soldiers expected to bolster troop levels in Afghanistan will allow Canada to be more effective with the troops it currently has on the ground, Harper said.
"The addition of American troops will allow us to do everything we're doing now but on a much bigger scale and able to multi-task more effectively," he said.
It will also ultimately lead to more bloodshed, said Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Walter Natynczyk.
"When you bring in a lot more forces with the purpose of interdicting the Taliban roots coming in out of the country, and you block that, there will be activity," Natynczyk predicted.
"There will be violence in those areas."
Harper made the clandestine trip to Kandahar Airfield aboard one of Canada's new C-17 military cargo planes - his first flight in one of the mammoth aircraft - after completing trade meetings Wednesday with European officials in Prague.
Within moments of getting off the plane, the prime minister boarded a Canadian Forces helicopter and swooped into the Arghandab Valley about 37 kilometres northeast of Kandahar city to view the Dahla dam project.
Canada has committed $50 million over three years to reconstruct the dam, along with the roads and waterways connected to it.
The dam is crucial to the local population, with 80 per cent of Kandahar residents living alongside its lush, green irrigation system.
The prime minister was joined on his visit to Kandahar by Natynczyk and Ron Hoffmann, Canada's ambassador to Afghanistan.
Both men said Canada and other NATO countries failed to deploy adequate numbers of soldiers to Afghanistan to secure the Kandahar region enough to focus on aid efforts.
"Canada was spread thin in the past," Hoffmann told reporters as the prime minister handed out coffee to soldiers nearby.
"There has not been sufficient forces on the ground to do this job," Natynczyk later added.
"We've been trying to do this job with about 40,000 troops. That is totally insufficient."
Harper addressed several hundred soldiers who gathered in the main square at Kandahar Airfield, reaffirming the government's support for the job they're doing and praising them for their sacrifice.
He used the opportunity to announce an additional $2 million in aid that will go through UNICEF to help it educate an estimated 18,000 children in Kandahar.
Canada has spent billions of dollars in Afghanistan since 2002, largely for military efforts, but also for aid projects, including roughly $60 million spent on a program aimed at eradicating polio.
Joined: 09 Oct 2008
Posts: 1140 votes: 10
Location: Vaughan, ON
Posted: Fri May 08, 2009 3:09 pm Post subject:
Good on him.
I don't see the Governor General. Nor the great King of the Opposition, or the Taliban lover doing it.
Maybe they could do it sometime.
Perhaps they could also get lost there.
I remember the Count being in Northern Iraq shooting AKs with the Kurds in his younger years. But nope, don't remember him going to Afghanistan. Same thing with Obama. He only went to Afghanistan on his way to Europe for his big speechy thing.
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