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Cablegate: Liberals Clarify Afghanistan No Trigger For

VZCZCXRO5300
OO RUEHGA RUEHHA RUEHIK RUEHPOD RUEHQU RUEHVC RUEHYG
DE RUEHOT #0280 0532231
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 222231Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY OTTAWA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7390
INFO RUCNCAN/ALL CANADIAN POSTS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO PRIORITY 0882

UNCLAS OTTAWA 000280

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL MOPS PGOV AF CA
SUBJECT: LIBERALS CLARIFY AFGHANISTAN NO TRIGGER FOR
ELECTIONS

REF: A. OTTAWA 270

B. OTTAWA 257

1. (U) In remarks to reporters in Winnipeg on February 22,
Liberal Party leader Stephane Dion explicitly stated that his
party "prefers" that the future mission of Canadian Forces in
Afghanistan not be the trigger for a federal election. He
indicated that the Liberals welcome the debate on the
government's revised motion (ref a), which will begin on
February 25, and noted that this was "inevitable" in a
democracy. He underscored that Canada was, after all,
fighting on behalf of Afghanistan's right to be a similar
democracy. Dion commented on the "great progress" by the
government's "move toward our position" with the new motion,
although he said the Liberals would question why the
government had moved the Liberals' original end date of
February 2011 (with completion by July) to July 2011 (with
completion by December). He emphasized that the Liberals, as
well as "99.999 percent of all Canadians" fully support
Canadian troops. In response to a final question about
Liberal hopes for an eventual federal election, he noted that
the Liberals will "choose our time, and then be ready."

2. (U) Separately, Chief of Defence Staff General Rick
Hiller, at a Conference of Defence Associations Institute
seminar on February 22 in Ottawa, called on Canadian
politicians of all stripes to convey their "clarity of
purpose...and overwhelming support" to Canadian troops in
Afghanistan. He argued that parliamentarians should
recognize that often the best way for members of the Canadian
Forces to defend themselves is by engaging in "pro-active
operations" against enemy combatants. He commented that
failure to do so would serve as a signal to the Taliban that
they could shape Canada's political decisions by targeting
Canadian forces in Kandahar, adding that he could not rule
out that the Taliban had decided to step up the pace of
recent attacks with an eye on this ongoing debate.


3. (SBU) Comment: If there have been any lingering doubts
in recent weeks that the Liberals intend to let the
government survive for the time being and that the two major
parties have reached a workable consensus on Afghanistan that
will enable the continued deployment of Canadian Forces in
Kandahar until sometime in 2011, Dion has now clearly laid
these to rest. He failed even to cite the usual litany of
minimal requirements for an extension beyond February 2009 --
1,000 more troops from NATO partners and sufficient
helicopters and UAVs.

Visit Canada,s Economy and Environment Forum at
http://www.intelink.gov/communities/state/can ada

WILKINS

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