Three years ago, despite having said a year earlier that “we can’t set arbitrary deadlines and wish for the best,” the Prime Minister said, of the Canadian mission in Afghanistan, “you have to put an end date on these things.”
In January, the Prime Minister’s insisted that the mission for Canada after 2011 would be “strictly civilian.” In June, the Prime Minister noted “with some interest” the comments of Liberal critic Bob Rae after Mr. Rae mused of troops remaining in Afghanistan, but maintained that the mission would transition to a “civilian and development mission at the end of 2011″ as set out in a parliamentary motion, even though that motion referred to Kandahar and the Liberal proposal referred to Kabul. Three weeks later, the Defence Minister expressed “great interest” in the Liberal proposal, but again pointed to the motion of parliament as binding. Either way, a day later, the Foreign Affairs Minister dismissed any suggestion that troops might remain past 2011, observing that “Peter might be open to the idea, but this doesn’t mean that the Prime Minister and the Government of Canada is open to the idea.”
And so it is now that a “senior government official” tells the Star that the idea of troops remaining in a training role is being considered, a revelation seemingly confirmed publicly by the Defence Minister.