The 2011 Afghanistan exit date: carved in snow


Everybody agrees that President Barack Obama didn’t put any pressure on Canadian politicians today to rethink Canada’s planned withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan in 2011.

Yet from both Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, answers on the question of the exit date were far from emphatic. It’s reasonable to conclude that both are open to being persuaded to extend the mission. If they aren’t, they would have been firmer about sticking to the 2011 timetable.

This is a top-of-mind issue for U.S. journalists, since Obama just ordered 17,000 more American troops be sent to Afghanistan. Here’s what Harper had to say when the sticky 2011 date was raised at today’s news conference by an American reporter:

“Just very quickly, as you probably know, it was just last year that we were able to get through Parliament a bipartisan resolution extending our military engagement in Afghanistan for an additional close to four years at that point. As we move forward, we anticipate an even greater engagement on economic development. That’s part of the strategy that we adopted. I would just say this. You know obviously we’re operating within a parliamentary resolution. I would just say this. In terms of the United States looking at its own future engagement, we are highly appreciative of the fact the United States is going to be a partner with us on the ground in Kandahar.”

It’s not the first time that Harper has cast the 2011 exit date as primarily a matter of what Parliament decided, as opposed to clearly stating that it’s a policy he and his government wholeheartedly supports. So what if Parliament changed its mind?

On that question, we turn to the leader of the second largest contingent of MPs in the Commons. Asked what he would do if Obama persuaded Harper that Canada should prolong its military mission in Afghanistan, here’s what Ignatieff said: “We cross that bridge when we come to it. We are bound by the parliamentary resolution.”

He went on to remark that Canada could continue working in Afghanistan after 2011 on development, diplomatic, political and strategic fronts. He also mentioned that Obama didn’t press him on the exit date in their half-hour meeting. However, Ignatieff didn’t say anything that sounded like he regards the matter as closed.

“The position of the party stays where it is,” he said, “and we’ll cross whatever bridges we have to cross when we have to cross them and not before.”


The 2011 Afghanistan exit date: carved in snow

  1. Extension if necessary but not necessarily extension.

  2. Hmm, well, the date “2011” was picked randomly out of a hat because it seemed like a good distance away but not too far away, so by the time 2011 itself rolls around it will be out of date, and we’ll need another date that seems like a good distance away but not too far away — say, 2015? Or 2014, it doesn’t really matter.

    • Er, I guess all thinks picked out of hats are picked randomly . . . and you don’t pick them for reasons . . . I guess I meant picked arbitrarily, yeah.

      • I guess all thinks picked out of hats are picked randomly …

        Only if it was a fair hat.

    • Doesn’t matter politically, I mean. Of course it does matter for the poor battalions now doing their Nth tour over. We should at least add a battalion to each regiment.

      Man, my own subthread! This is great. I get to strenuously disagree with myself and score all kinds of easy victories.

    • Funny how that parliamentary resolution seems a lot less binding when both the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition hint that they’re open to the possibility of changing it.

      • OK, I’ll bite. When is a Parliamentary resolution ever binding?

        • A resolution that establishes a timetable is never really binding, as it can be changed by a majority vote in Parliament. I said “a lot less binding” in reference to Iggy’s statement.

  3. Harper hiding behind a parliamentary resolution is disingenuous. Since when does Parliament have the right to set the agenda for his government? I’m pretty sure if Parliament asked him to do anything he’d rather not he’d either ignore it or call it a matter of confidence.

  4. I don’t doubt that most of the troops will be pulled back or out in 2011.

    Then we can start to sacrifice bodies to the ” nation building ” process. Should be fun.

    • Totally agree, and think its been the plan all along.

      For one thing, our military might not be able to continue past 2011. I’m talking about equipment repairs/replacement, not to mention completely exhausted troops.

      This whole thing reminds me of one of those municipal “studies” they do every now and then to look good while they go after whatever it is they want. The thing’s a foregone conclusion before they even ask a single (slanted) question. So, we are ending our military role in Afghanistan in 2011. Over the next two years, we will be subjected to more and tougher ‘pressure’ which may or may not be coming from the Americans, but it will look like it is–certainly, it won’t originate with Harper, he’ll just be responding to world leaders. So we shall announce, just before pulling our troops out, that we will massively increase the number and dollar amount of our reconstruction and aid efforts. After all, we can’t leave our partners and just walk away, we will take responsibility for going in there in the first place, yada yada yada. I don’t mind increasing our reconstruction and aid efforts, I just wish they’d come out and say this is the plan honestly.

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