Canada to pull civilian staff from Kandahar, base training mission in Kabul

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Ottawa, Nov 17 (ANI): Canada is slashing aid to Afghanistan and abandoning any presence in Kandahar by withdrawing not only troops but civilian officials who manage development projects from a Provincial Reconstruction Team, next year.

Despite the approval of a new training mission, the moves mark a turning point where Canada is significantly disengaging from Afghanistan, dramatically reducing the outlay of cash, reducing the risk to troops, and quitting the war-scarred southern province where Canada has led military and civilian efforts.

The Globe and Mail quoted International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda as saying that Canada would provide 100 million dollars a year in development assistance for Afghanistan over the next three years, less than half the 205 million dollars the government reported spending last year.

The Harper government's decision to mount a 950-strong training mission in Afghanistan when it cuts off the combat role next July was accompanied on Tuesday by confirmation of a complete pullout from Kandahar, the paper said.

The training mission would reportedly be mostly in Kabul, and possibly other Afghan centres, but not in Kandahar. Civilian officials who manage development projects from a Provincial Reconstruction Team would also leave.

"The [civilian] people who are in Kandahar will be either reassigned to Kabul, as needed, or will be returning to Canada," Oda said.

Reconstruction projects in the province would effectively be managed on the ground by U.S. officials who are already gradually taking over operations at the Kandahar PRT.

She also insisted that Canada would continue to fund its signature projects like the reconstruction of the Dhalla Dam, which will irrigate the Arghandab River valley that flows into arid Kandahar. But whereas about half of Canadian aid now goes to Kandahar, the much-reduced sums will now be spread across Afghanistan, government officials said.

In the meantime, Canadian combat forces may be withdrawn from the Kandahar battlefield sooner than the July deadline, coming back to the base at Kandahar Airfield before the Canadian Forces begin the months-long task of taking down equipment and shipping it back to Canada. (ANI)

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