Archive for Saturday, February 23, 2008

Defense chief: Afghan debate endangers soldiers

February 23, 2008

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— Canada's top general warned lawmakers Friday that prolonged debate over the military mission in Afghanistan could be encouraging the Taliban to step up attacks on Canadian forces to coerce an early withdrawal.

Chief of Defense Staff Gen. Rick Hillier called for a quick extension of the mission past February 2009, saying that the Taliban is watching the political debate and looking for signs of weakness.

"We are, in the eyes of the Taliban, in a window of extreme vulnerability. And the longer we go without that clarity, with the issue in doubt, the more the Taliban will target us as a perceived weak link," Hillier said.

Canada's minority Conservative government has been trying to extend the military operation in Afghanistan's Kandahar province, the former Taliban stronghold. The government faced pressure from the opposition to withdraw Canada's troops after the deaths of 78 soldiers and a diplomat.

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