200 New Troops for Afghanistan

An increase to Canada's troop commitment in Afghanistan to 2,700 would represent the additional boots on the ground needed to run aerial drones and six Chinook helicopters, said Defence Minister Peter MacKay.

Foreign Affairs Minister David Emerson was in Afghanistan on the weekend for his first visit since taking on the portfolio.

While there, he said Canada may boost its numbers in the south by 200 "as more equipment arrives," appearing to link the troops to a new squadron of helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) expected to be in place early next year.

MacKay, speaking to CTV's Canada AM on Monday, confirmed the link, saying the extra troops would be part of the increases needed to meet the recommendations of the Manley report on Afghanistan which was endorsed by Parliament.

"These additional troops would be required to keep the commitment that the parliamentary motion spoke of," MacKay said.

"And this will also importantly provide the ability to transport troops and equipment inside Afghanistan's Kandahar province, as well as giving that all important eye in the sky perspective for the UAVs."

John Manley's report on Afghanistan recommended that Canada extend its commitment to Afghanistan, but only if other NATO members boosted their troop commitments and provided more equipment.

MacKay noted that many of the 88 Canadian troops killed in Afghanistan were struck by improvised explosive devices while doing ground transportation of materials needed for development and reconstruction efforts.

The new equipment, he said, will save lives.

"UAVs give us that eye in the sky, the ability to see the Taliban when they're putting these type of devices in the road," MacKay said.

"And the transport helicopters, the heavy lift capability is critically important to the mission and its success."

MacKay also previewed a list of mission benchmarks the federal government plans to release in August to help Canadians measure the success of the mission.

In addition to military benchmarks, the list will include a major dam-building project, the construction of schools and efforts to eradicate polio with medical supplies and immunizations, MacKay said.

"So in addition to security and providing greater security on the ground we'll move ahead with this type of project. This is very much in keeping with Parliament's commitments. What we want to see as Canadians is a stable society that's able to do a lot more for itself," MacKay said.

Speaking in Kabul on Saturday, Emerson said the long-awaited benchmark list will be a valuable tool.

"We want numbers that tell us when we're doing things right. We want numbers and benchmarks that will tell us when we're doing things not so well," he said.

By CTV.ca News Staff

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