Canadian troops could stay in Afghanistan for at least 20 years, predicted one
of the top generals amidst public criticism of the government decision to expand
troops deployment from the Afghan capital to other regions.
"Afghanistan is a 20-year venture," Maj.-Gen. Andrew was quoted
by Monday's Toronto Star as saying.
He argued that the lengthy stay is necessary to help the war-torn country
break out of "a cycle of warlords and tribalism."
Leslie made the remarks Sunday at the Couchiching Summer Conference in Orillia,
Ontario, north of Toronto.
Canada began building up its forces in Afghanistan in July, and hundreds of
soldiers have been sent to the region of Kandahar during the past one month.
According to a defense ministry plan, as many as 1,250 Canadian soldiers will
be serving in Afghanistan by February 2006.
The peace-keeping force that was deployed in Kabul in August 2003 will also
move to Kandahar when its mission ends this autumn after the Afghan National
Assembly and Provincial Council elections .
The decision to send troops to Afghanistan was under fire ever since it was
first announced in 2003, sparking fears of fatalities among both the public
and government officials.
The plan to expand mission to Kandahar this year also met with strong opposition
as fears grew for a terrorist attack on Canadian soil in the wake of the July
7 bomb attack on London.
Leslie defended the move as worthwhile saying "there are things worth
fighting for, there are things worth dying for, there are things worth killing
His remarks echoed that of Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Rick Hillier, who said
in July that by sending troops to Afghanistan, Canada is actually protecting
itself in the long run.