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In The Media

Donald Trump vows to keep fighting in Afghanistan. How does this affect Canada?

by Katie Dangerfield & Rebecca Joseph (feat. Lindsay Rodman)

Global News
August 22, 2017

U.S. President Donald Trump has vowed to keep American troops fighting in Afghanistan and called on other NATO members, like Canada, to help support the new strategy.

There still hasn’t been an official response from Ottawa to Trump’s call to action, but some NATO countries, like Germany and Britain, have already welcomed his decision to open the door to more troops in Afghanistan.

Canada has previously opposed the idea.

In June, NATO announced it was sending more soldiers to the country to help train and work alongside Afghan security forces. But Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada “absolutely has no plans to send any troops back to Afghanistan.”

“We have served there with distinction, with valour, over 10 years and made a significant impact,” he said. “And Canada’s looking to be helpful in other places.”

When asked, the Department of National Defence said Trudeau’s earlier statement stands as of now.

Trump renews commitment…does Canada have to follow?

The U.S. currently has about 8,400 troops in Afghanistan. Pentagon officials proposed plans to send in nearly 4,000 more to boost training and advising of the Afghan forces and bolster counterterrorism operations against the Taliban and an Islamic State group affiliate trying to gain a foothold in the country.

The first deployments could take place within days.

In Trump’s speech Monday, he did not say how many or when troops will be sent, however, he did say the troops had a single-point agenda and that was to eliminate extremist fighters. “We are not nation-building again,” he said Monday night. “We are killing terrorists.”

“We will ask our NATO allies and global partners to support our new strategy, with additional troop and funding increases in line with our own. We are confident they will,” Trump said in the speech.

Britain, a leading NATO member, called the U.S. commitment “very welcome.”

Germany, which contributes 950 troops in northern Afghanistan, approved the U.S. readiness for a “long-term commitment” and agreed the military’s continued deployment should be “linked to the conditions on the ground.”

Response from Canada doesn’t need to come right away, experts say.

“It really is premature for [Canada] to be making decisions,” Lindsay Rodman, a fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and an international affairs fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, told Global News.

Since there’s no defined plan, officials in Canada have time to look at the situation, and the policies that are in place. But Rodman, who is an american and was formally part of the Obama administration, says there’s an opportunity to shape the coming plans.

“I think that this is a good opportunity for countries like Canada who think the U.S. would love to add partners in a venture like this, to ask the right kind of questions that would nudge the U.S. in the right direction,” she said.

Canada’s history in Afghanistan

Canada first got involved in Afghanistan following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and then sent more combat troops to the southern province of Kandahar in 2006. It has also contributed billions in aid.

By the time the combat mission ended in 2011, 158 Canadian soldiers, one diplomat and one journalist had been killed. Canada continued to train Afghan security forces in the capital Kabul for the next three years, until the last troops left in December 2014.

Last year, Canada renewed more than $150 million per year for aid projects in Afghanistan and to help the country’s security forces, working out to about $465 million over three years.

But since Canada, and many other countries pulled out of Afghanistan, the security situation in the country has worsened. Violence has increased across the country, with the Taliban capturing territory and launching attacks on the capital as the U.S. and other allies have drawn down troop levels and increasingly left Afghan forces to deal with security.

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