On Monday January 28, Prime Minister Harper officially responded to the Manley Panel¹s report on Canada¹s Future Role in Afghanistan.
For the past year, the Liberal Party¹s position on Afghanistan has been clear; we want to see an end to the current combat mission in February 2009 and a shift to a different role for Canada¹s military in Afghanistan. Our position has been that the mission must have clear timelines and that we believe that there should be a regular rotation of NATO troops to ensure a fairer sharing of the burden by all NATO members. The Prime Minister gave a very broad and vague statement on his government¹s position generating more questions than answers. Until Canadians start to get some specific details on the government¹s position, Liberals are not prepared to give blanket support to the government. Mr. Harper indicated the government was not interested in fixed deadlines and that Canada¹s involvement would be reviewed in two to three years. We need to know what this means. Canadians and NATO need clarity. We have questions that we think the Prime Minister must address before we can talk of extending the mission. Questions include:
o How will the Prime Minister bolster and improve our diplomatic efforts surrounding the mission?
o What concrete steps will the Prime Minister take to improve the domestic management of the Afghan file?
o What is the government going to do to strike a better balance between our military efforts and our development assistance?
Liberals have been calling on the government to deal honestly with NATO for over a year. We hope it’s not too late to start. Canadians need to know how the Prime Minister intends to improve the transparency and honesty with which the government deals with this file, particularly as it relates to detainees. At last, the Prime Minister is saying we need to engage in a discussion on the mission. As Liberals, we have been discussing the issue with Canadians for over a year and will be happy to engage in a national discussion to make sure that Canada strikes the right balance in its approach to Afghanistan.