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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 January 2008, 18:00 GMT
Canada urged to keep Afghan force
By Lee Carter
BBC News, Toronto

Canadian soldier in Afghanistan (file picture)
The presence of Canadian troops in Afghanistan has divided parties
A high-profile report in Canada looking at the future of its military mission in Afghanistan is recommending Canadian troops remain there indefinitely.

The independent panel, headed by ex-Liberal minister John Manley, also urges more troops from other Nato countries be deployed in the south.

If Canada does not get the support it needs, it should pull out, the report of the panel says.

Canada has some 2,500 troops stationed in Kandahar.

They are engaged in counter-insurgency operations against the Taleban, alongside mainly British, American and Dutch troops.

The Manley report says there are tough conditions for Canada to maintain its presence in southern Afghanistan indefinitely.

One is that Nato sends at least 1,000 more International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) troops to support Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan's violent south, something Nato has had difficulty in doing.

The Manley report also wants much more military equipment to be provided, and it wants to see much more training given to the Afghan army.

John Manley says unless those conditions are met, Canada should bluntly advise its allies that it will leave at the end of its current mandate in February 2009.

Influential report

The report will certainly carry a lot of political weight here.

Mr Manley is a respected former Liberal deputy prime minister who is advising a minority Conservative government.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has always supported extending Canada's military mission.

But the current Liberals and other opposition parties all want Canada's direct combat role to come to an end.

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