Canada's mission in Afghanistan has put its army under so much strain that it is relying increasingly on reservists to sign on as full-time soldiers, the head of the Canadian army has said.
Reservists will be key to maintaining Canada's deployment in Kandahar, which is slated to run until February 2009, Lt.-Gen. Andrew Leslie, commander of the Canadian army, was cited as saying by local media reports on Tuesday.
Most of the Canadian Forces' 18,000 reservists either work full- time in civilian jobs or are full-time students. The army is trying to persuade about 1,500 of them to sign on for two to three years of full-time duty. About 300 reservists are currently serving in Kandahar, Leslie told the House of Commons Defense Committee Monday.
"We obviously have a little gap," he said. "And that gap is going to be filled by persons such as myself and the minister and the chief of defense staff asking reservists to contribute in more numbers than they have done so in the past."
Canada has more than 2,000 soldiers in Afghanistan, the majority stationed in Kandahar. Canada first sent troops to the country in early 2002.
Recently, the chief of defense staff Gen. Rick Hillier suggested the Canadian Forces would try to "re-role" some Forces personnel to deal with the stress that the Afghan mission is placing on the forces.
That would mean personnel from the navy and air force would be transferred to the army and deployed overseas in non-combat roles so more soldiers in the infantry could be freed up for combat.