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NATO mission in trouble: Canadian Senate

NATO's military mission in Afghanistan has little chance of success unless the alliance commits significantly more resources, a report has said.

india Updated: Feb 13, 2007 14:57 IST

NATO's military mission to Afghanistan is in trouble and has little chance of success unless the alliance commits significantly more resources, said a report issued by the Canadian Senate on Monday.

The defence committee of the Senate said NATO faces a "huge and complex set of problems" as it tries to rebuild the shattered country.

"It is in our view doubtful that this mission can be accomplished given the limited resources that NATO is currently investing in Afghanistan," said the report.

"Canada and NATO must deploy resources in Afghanistan and use those resources in a better way than we have done to this point," it said.

"If this proves impossible, Canada should be prepared to consider withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan as soon as our current commitment ends."

Canada has 2,500 soldiers in the southern city of Kandahar, who are due to pull out early in 2009.

So far, 44 Canadian soldiers and a diplomat have died, most of them in 2006.

The problems facing Canada and its allies include a resurgent Taliban, a booming poppy trade, endemic corruption and a wrecked infrastructure.

"Anyone expecting to see the emergence in Afghanistan within the next several decades of a recognisable modern democracy capable of delivering justice and amenities to its people is dreaming in Technicolor," said the report. 

A spokesman for Foreign Minister Peter MacKay said Canada was committed to Afghanistan and noted that NATO defense ministers had discussed the mission at a series of meetings in Spain last week.

"The meetings were very positive and successful, and there is a general optimism toward Afghanistan.

The United States, Britain and the Polish have also all agreed recently to send more troops to Afghanistan," said spokesman Dan Dugas.

The Senate, which is an appointed body, said Canada must pressure its allies to contribute more troops to the 35,000 NATO troops already there.

Ottawa is unhappy that some NATO countries have restricted what their soldiers can do and where they can go.

"Some of our allies are doing a lot of saluting but not much marching," said the report, which also accused Canada of not spending nearly enough on aid projects in Kandahar.

Canadian troops are focused on fighting the Taliban and their presence has made things worse for the civilian population, the report said.

"Where Canada is trying to have its biggest impact — in Kandahar — life is clearly more perilous because we are there ... the combination of too many innocent lives being lost and too little development assistance coming through the pipeline contribute to making life bleak and dangerous," it said.

The report said Canada should boost its development aid to Kandahar and send a further 250 military instructors to train Afghan troops.

In addition, the government should dispatch 60 police trainers to help develop a national police force.

Jack Layton, leader of the left-leaning New Democrats, said the report boosted his belief that the mission was too focused on fighting rather than development aid. 

"The more people that look at what's happening in Afghanistan, the more concerns there are about the nature of the mission, the likelihood of its success," he said.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper last week said he would shortly be making a significant announcement about the Afghan mission but gave few details.