Canadian trainers to begin Afghan withdrawal next month

KABUL – Canadian troops will begin a phased withdrawal from Afghanistan next month, leaving fewer than 100 soldiers on the ground by the time the training mission officially comes to end in March.

But questions remain about whether the Afghan force Canadians have been training will be capable of fending off the continued onslaught of insurgents.

Maj.-Gen. Dean Milner, who’s in charge of Canadian troops and deputy commander of the NATO training mission, expressed confidence that the Afghan National Army and police will be able to meet the challenges.

But U.S. Gen. Joseph Dunford, Milner’s boss and the NATO commander in Afghanistan, said in a recent interview with the British media he believes Afghan forces are suffering an “unsustainable” level of casualties and that the fledgling army might need western help for another five years.

Milner says trainers have been working to mitigate the threats against Afghan troops by providing more extensive training for avoiding and diffusing roadside bombs and booby traps.

Canadian troops fought a five-year counter-insurgency war in Kandahar, and Milner says the region is more stable now.