Clinton: U.S. hopes Canadian troops stay in Afghanistan beyond 2011

08:06, March 31, 2010      

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The United States would like Canadian troops to stay in Afghanistan beyond 2011, when their mission was scheduled to end, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has told local media.

In an interview with Canada's CBC's The Hour, Clinton, who is here for a G8 foreign ministers' meeting, said on Monday: "We'd love to have Canada stay in this fight with us," adding, however, it was up to Canada to make the final decision.

"But again, you know, you've got your own considerations and we respect that," she said.

Clinton said the U.S. needed non-combat forces, for example, for training and logistical work, adding that "the Canadians and the Americans get along so well."

To date, there has been no formal request from NATO for Canadian troops to stay in Afghanistan past 2011.

In 2008, Canada's parliament passed a motion to keep soldiers in Kandahar until 2011. Leaving military trainers in Kabul after the 2011 pullout date would still comply with the federal government's commitment to end Canada's role in the fighting.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon has recently reiterated on several occasions that the pullout date has not changed, ruling out any form of military mission beyond 2011.

However, he hinted the government was looking at non-military roles after that deadline.

Canada has at least 2,500 soldiers in Afghanistan serving under NATO. Since Canada began its Afghan mission in 2002, 142 Canadian soldiers and two civilians have died during the mission.

The foreign ministers of the G8 gathered here late on Monday for their two-day spring meeting to address major issues on international peace and security.

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