Natynczyk planning complete Afghan withdrawal in 2011By Juliet O'Neill, Canwest News service
OTTAWA — The only Canadian soldier left in Afghanistan after 2011 may be the military attache at the Canadian Embassy in Kabul, according to Gen. Walter Natynczyk.
The chief of the defence staff was unequivocal about the withdrawal of some 2,800 Canadian Forces members while testifying Tuesday at the House of Commons defence committee where MPs repeatedly pressed him to clarify what they regard as vague government messages on how many non-combat troops will be left behind and what role they will play.
Natynczyk's answer in short was: None, "except perhaps for people who work in the embassy." Later he specified the military attache may be the only one left in the country.
When MPs asked whether Canadian troops would remain to provide security for civilian provincial reconstruction teams or to train Afghan army and police, the general repeatedly said no.
"If PRT remain it will still be a team of civilian officials," he said.
Natynczyk said he is implementing government instructions to the military, based on the government's interpretation of a motion passed by Parliament March 13, 2008, to end the mission in July 2011, and have all Canadian Forces personnel, vehicles and equipment out by the end of 2011.
He called the logistics of the withdrawal "daunting," and said it was an intricate, and significant task — the biggest military redeployment since the Korean War. Planning is underway now and care had to be taken to ensure equipment is not shipped out of Afghanistan while military operations are still underway for another 18 months.
Among the equipment he listed: more than 1,200 vehicles, medical facilities, ammunition, spare parts, computers, and "several thousand sea containers full of stuff" — including snow plows.
In a related development, Defence Minister Peter MacKay said in a written statement tabled in the Commons that his department "has not developed any contingencies for the extension of the Canadian military mission in Afghanistan beyond 2011." The statement was in a written answer to questions from Liberal MP Ujall Dosanjh about planning for a possible extension.
The mission will end in July 2011 and Canadian Forces "will have completely withdrawn from Kandahar by December 2011," Natynczyk said.