Friday, June 22, 2007

Major concession on Afghanistan by Harper

While there may be a lot of focus on the environmental issue today, it seems to me that Harper's done an about face on his Afghanistan policy, likely in response to polls like this one indicating Canadians want the mission to end in 2009.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper clearly said today Canada’s military mission in Afghanistan will end in February 2009 but added the country may have a different role after that.

“The mission, which we have extended, ends in 2009. I will want to see some consensus among Canadians about how we move forward after that,” Harper told reporters session-ending press conference.

“I would hope the view of Canadians is not to simply abandon Afghanistan. I think there is some expectation there will be a new role after February 2009,” he said.

For several months Harper has been less than clear on the mission’s end, often saying Canadians “won’t cut and run.” Also Canada has been pressured by NATO to extend the mission.
As recently as his May visit, Harper implied the mission would go on post 2009:
"You know that your work is not complete. You know that we cannot just put down our arms and hope for peace," Harper told a crowd of soldiers at an outdoor ball hockey rink at the Canadian military base.

"You know that we can't set arbitrary deadlines and simply wish for the best. And you must also know that your hard work is making a real difference to real people and their families," he said.
Make no mistake...this is a real change in the Conservative policy. They don't want to fight an election on this. Events in Harper's treasured vote trove of Quebec, where tons of noise is being made on the issue this week, may have dictated this turnabout.

Cutting and running from his position? After all, this was a mission that Mini Bush previously compared to WWI's significance...now he's shrugging his shoulders. You be the judge...