A short history of the Harper government changing its mind on the mission in Afghanistan

David Pugliese reports that the Harper government is discussing with the United States the possibility that Canadian special forces will be on the ground in Afghanistan after 2014. This despite a vow two years ago that Canadian Forces would be out of Afghanistan when the current mission ends in 2014.

Before that the Harper government said 2011 was the deadline. And before that the Prime Minister said that it didn’t make sense to set a deadline.

Herein, the highlights of how we got this far.

Stephen Harper, March 13, 2006. “There will be some who want to cut and run, but cutting and running is not my way and it’s not the Canadian way. We don’t make a commitment and then run away at the first sign of trouble. We don’t and we will not, as long as I’m leading this country.”

Stephen Harper, May 11, 2007. “We can’t set arbitrary deadlines and wish for the best.”

Stephen Harper, September 10, 2008. “You have to put an end date on these things. By 2011, we will have been in Kandahar, which is probably the toughest province in the country, for six years. Not only have we done our bit at that point, I think our goal has to be after six years to see the government of Afghanistan able to carry the lion’s share of responsibility for its own security. At that point, the mission, as we’ve known it, we intend to end.”

Stephen Harper, January 6, 2010. “We will not be undertaking any activities that require any kind of military presence, other than the odd guard guarding an embassy. We will not be undertaking any kind activity that requires a significant military force protection, so it will become a strictly civilian mission.”

Throne Speech, March 3, 2010. “In Afghanistan, the Canadian Forces prepare for the end of the military mission in 2011 with the knowledge that – through great sacrifice and with great distinction – their efforts saved Kandahar province from falling back under Taliban control. After 2011, our effort in Afghanistan will focus on development and humanitarian aid.”

Stephen Harper, June 4, 2010. “I think we’ve been very clear. We’re working according to the parliamentary resolution that was adopted in 2008 by which Canada’s military mission will end and will transition to a civilian and development mission at the end of 2011. And that continues to be our workplan according to the resolution adopted by Parliament.”

Peter MacKay, June 22, 2010. “I’m very interested. I know the Prime Minister has expressed interest in what Mr. Ignatieff said. But the parliamentary motion is very clear so that is where we are today.”

Lawrence Cannon, June 23, 2010. “The door is firmly closed …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.”

Peter MacKay, November 8, 2010. “We’ve been crystal clear in saying that the combat mission will end in July. But training is an option, and something we’ve been very good at, quite frankly.”

Stephen Harper, November 11, 2010.  “Look, I’m not going to kid you. Down deep, my preference would be, would have been, to see a complete end to the military mission. But as we approach that date, the facts on the ground convince me that the Afghan military needs further training. I don’t want to risk the gains that Canadian soldiers have fought for and that they have sacrificed in such significant numbers for by pulling out too early if we can avoid that. I think if we can continue a smaller mission that involves just training, I think frankly that presents minimal risks to Canada but it helps us ensure that the gains we’ve made our continued … to truly ensure that the Afghan forces are able over the next couple of years to take over true responsibility for their security. So I do this with some reluctance but I think it is the best decision when one looks at the options.”

Lawrence Cannon, November 23, 2010. “We might be pressured obviously, but I think the prime minister has made this perfectly clear. March of 2014 is when we will be leaving.”