Thursday, June 12, 2008

Canada won't leave until Afghan Work Done

PARIS - Canada, one of numerous countries pledging money at a conference here aimed at ramping up western government and public support for the Afghanistan mission, won't follow through on its promise to end its military role in Kandahar in 2011, an Afghan parliamentarian predicted Thursday.
Dr. Zalmai, chairman of a National Assembly committee responsible for dealing with corruption complaints, said he's confident Canada won't withdraw its 2,500 troops from Kandahar until the international community decides Afghanistan is ready.
``We are with the people of Canada, we appreciate their sacrificing, their help, their contributing to the reconstruction of Afghanistan,'' said Zalmai, who goes by only one name.
``As a parliamentarian I'm sure Canada will remain with us. They will never leave the Afghan people,'' he said.
His comments, made prior to Foreign Affairs Minister David Emerson's presentation to the conference, echo those of two members of a Senate committee that tabled a report Wednesday assessing Canada's progress in Afghanistan.
Liberal Senator Colin Kenny, chairman of the Senate's national security and defence committee, and Conservative Senator Michael Meighen both said they doubted Canada will be able to pull out its troops by then.
One analyst said the Canadian government and Parliament are erring by setting a strict departure time.
Thomas Ruttig, former senior official to both the European Union and the United Nations on Afghanistan matters, said departure times help the Taliban intimidate Afghans who are tempted to co-operate with western soldiers and aid workers.
``Of course the Taliban go around saying, `we have all the time in the world, we'll just wait until all these guys are gone,''' Ruttig told Canwest News Service.
The daylong conference opened Thursday with speeches by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, and United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.
Ban praised Karzai's government for promising to stamp out corruption, but said action has to be put behind those words with prosecutions against high- level offenders in government.
``I applaud Afghanistan for signing the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, and I urge the government to take active measures to ensure that it is implemented,'' Ban said.
Karzai, meanwhile, painted a rosy picture of his country's achievements and future objectives in areas such as economic growth, democratic development and human rights.
He called for a long-term international commitment to his country and said Afghanistan's needs include an emphasis on dam rehabilitation and agriculture.
Emerson is expected to share details about Canada's recent announcement that it will increase development and reconstruction aid to Afghanistan from $1.3 billion to $1.9 billion over the 10-year period ending in 2011, when Canada has said it will end its ``military presence'' in Kandahar province.
Canada, one of the world's largest aid donors to Afghanistan, will target the money towards three ``signature'' projects - the rehabilitation of a dam in order to create jobs and boost the agriculture economy in Afghanistan, the construction or renovation of 50 schools, and an expansion of a polio immunization program.
The United States, France, Germany, Japan and the World Bank also pledged billions of dollars more in reconstruction aid to Afghanistan in combined contributions.

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