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No troops? Help any way: MacKay
Afghanistan can use critically needed equipment, defence minister says
PETER O’NEIL CANWEST NEWS SERVICE
AGENCE FRANCE- PRESSE CONTRIBUTED TO THIS REPORT
Countries too timid to send troops to Afghanistan’s most dangerous areas are being pressured to come up with alternative ways to help, such as providing critically needed equipment, Defence Minister Peter MacKay said yesterday.
But MacKay said Canada and other NATO allies active in the dangerous south, such as the Americans, the British and the Dutch, won’t give up efforts to convince countries like France and Germany to share more of the burden.
There’s a “realization that while we’re willing to accept that it may be prohibitive for some in the alliance to contribute troops, it doesn’t prohibit, in our view, other contributions,” MacKay said during a conference call with media after yesterday’s meeting in Scotland with ministers representing countries active in the dangerous south.
MacKay said countries could help with equipment maintenance, road construction or such hardware contributions as helicopters, transport aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles used for tracking Taliban activities.
MacKay said these contributions could help limit the most dangerous threat to Canadian soldiers – roadside improvised explosive devices.
Still, Canada and its partners will continue lobbying efforts to get troop commitments from countries fearful of a political backlash if they send their troops to areas where there is an increased likelihood of casualties, MacKay said.
“We haven’t ruled out future contributions from France, Germany or any countries for that matter,” he said.
MacKay and Foreign Minister Maxime Bernier attended the gathering, along with counterparts from the U.S., Britain, the Netherlands, Australia, Denmark, Romania and Estonia.
Bernier said ministers at the meeting didn’t have a problem with the Canadian government’s decision to appoint an independent panel, headed by former Liberal foreign minister John Manley, and hold a parliamentary debate on the future of Canada’s mission after the current commitment lapses in February 2009. In Kabul today, a car bomb outside the headquarters of the Kabul police killed five civilians and wounded several more people, Afghanistan’s interior ministry said.
“Five civilians have been killed and two police have been wounded. Some civilians have been wounded too, but we don’t have a figure,” an interior ministry spokesperson said.
A witness told AFP that one of the dead was a man who had been pushing a cart in the area.
The extremist Taliban movement said it carried out the attack in a busy part of the centre of the Afghan capital.
Interesting article in the papers.....