Afghanistan in Canada

Before leaving Canada and heading home to Europe I must just note the intense debate here over the nations engagement in the NATO mission in Afghanistan.

It’s a rather substantial one. There are 2 200 Canadian soldiers in southern Afghanistan, and they are increasingly taking on a fighting role there, with the occasional casualty very difficult to avoid.

It’s a new experience for a country that otherwise has a vast amount of experience from more conventional peacekeeping missions around the world.

The mission was of course started under the previous Liberal government, but when Prime Minister Harper and his conservative government took over in January the mission was extended for a further two years.

That proved to be very difficult for a Liberal party that by that time was in profound disarray after its defeat. A majority of Liberal MP’s opposed the extension of the mandate.

And in the context for the leadership of the Liberal party now underway, Afghanistan looks like becoming the most controversial issue. With most of the party members against, there could be a problem for frontrunner Michael Ignatieff with his rather hawkish stand on most of these issues.

So Afghanistan has suddenly come to the politics of Canada.

The Harper government is a minority one, and it is likely that it will seek a new mandate through a new election early next year.

Then Afghanistan might be even more of an issue.

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