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Canada heads for Afghan exit

world Updated: Jul 07, 2011 22:40 IST

After nine years, 157 troop deaths and more than $11 billion spent, Canada's combat mission in Afghanistan finally comes to an end this week.

With popular support for the war sapped at home, some of the nearly 3,000 Canadian troops, based mainly in the dangerous battleground of Kandahar, have already started returning from Afghanistan, and the rest will follow soon.

In recent days and weeks, they have been completing their final patrols, packing up dusty outposts and gathering at the giant Kandahar airfield military base to debrief before starting to catch their flights home.

The official end of Canada's hard-fought mission, which began in early 2002 a few months after the US-led invasion of the country, comes Thursday, and as other countries also announce partial troop withdrawals from the Afghan theatre as Western voters tire of nearly a decade of war.

Last month US President Barack Obama announced that he would withdraw 33,000 US troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2012, while France, Belgium and Britain have also said they will soon bring some troops home.

All foreign combat forces are due to hand security to Afghan forces by the end of 2014.