Canadian troops could remain in Afghanistan beyond 2011: Defence Minister

Toronto (Canada), Nov. 8 (ANI): Hundreds of Canadian troops could remain in Afghanistan years after the long and bloody combat mission officially ends in 2011.

Canadian Defence Minister Peter MacKay said Ottawa is looking at the possibility of keeping a significant number of soldiers "behind the wire" in the war-torn country to help train the Afghan army and local police.

"Knowing that the mission in Afghanistan has work that is yet to be done, we are now considering this," the Globe and Mail quoted MacKay as telling reporters in Halifax on Sunday at the conclusion of an international security conference.

"Training is an option and it's something we're very good at, quite frankly," he added.

The Harper government's shifting Afghan position moves it much closer to the opposition Liberals, who have urged the Harper government to commit to training and other non-combat roles as the 2011 pullout deadline nears.

Ottawa has repeatedly insisted that Afghanistan would become a purely civilian operation after the pullout of combat troops next year.

In January, for example, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canada's role there would become "strictly civilian" after 2011.

That stand now appears to be wavering as Washington and other allies step up appeals for Canada to stay beyond 2011 in advance of a NATO summit in Lisbon later this month.

Canada has 3,000 troops in the country now. And roughly 400 of those are already involved in training of some kind. (ANI)

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