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Canada sailors, airmen could fight in Afghanistan

Written by: Staff
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OTTAWA, Oct 23 (Reuters) Canada could retrain sailors and air force personnel to fight as ground troops in Afghanistan and thereby help overcome a shortage of soldiers, the defense ministry said today.

A ministry spokeswoman also said military leaders were considering whether to extend the average length of Afghan tours to nine months from six months.

Canada has 2,300 troops in the southern city of Kandahar but says it cannot continue the mission unless other NATO allies send more troops to the south.

''At this point they're considering this option of taking anyone within the Canadian forces and retraining them into more infantry-like skills,'' the spokeswoman said.

Other options include transferring reservists to the regular armed forces or persuading them to sign up for duty in Afghanistan.

Last week, Canada's Chief of Defence Staff Rick Hillier said the armed forces were ''still very much on life support systems'' after a decade of cuts to the military by the previous Liberal government, which lost power in January.

REUTERS AB RAI0026

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