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Cablegate: Parliamentary Committee On Afghanistan Begins Work

VZCZCXRO2517
OO RUEHBW RUEHGA RUEHHA RUEHIK RUEHPOD RUEHQU RUEHVC RUEHYG
DE RUEHOT #0603 1211952
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 301952Z APR 08
FM AMEMBASSY OTTAWA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7771
INFO RUCNCAN/ALL CANADIAN POSTS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL PRIORITY 0181

UNCLAS OTTAWA 000603

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV CA AF
SUBJECT: PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE ON AFGHANISTAN BEGINS WORK

REF: A. OTTAWA 373

B. OTTAWA 521

1. (SBU) PolMinCouns on April 29 met with chairman Pierre
Lemieux (Conservative, Ontario) of the House of Commons' new
"Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan,"
established under the terms of the March 13 bipartisan motion
extending the mandate of the Canadian Forces in Kandahar
until 2011 (ref a). He congratulated Lemieux on his
selection on April 15 by the 13 committee members, who
include the Parliamentary Secretaries for Defence, Foreign
Affairs, and Public Security on the Conservative side, as
well as official "Critics" (Shadow Ministers) for Defence and
Foreign Affairs on the Liberal side, as well as the New
Democratic Party's critic for Defence and the Bloc Quebecois'
critics for Defence and Foreign Affairs. Lemieux admitted
that it will be tricky for the Special Committee to navigate
a useful path that does not overlap unduly with the work of
the National Defence Committee and the Foreign Affairs
Committee, especially given the sometimes overlapping
memberships. He noted, for example, that the National
Defence Committee had already planned a trip in early summer
to Afghanistan, and said that Special Committee members would
have to defer their own initial travel to country of their
exclusive focus until at least fall 2008, in order not to
overload the people on the ground in Kandahar. He added that
the Special Committee's first travel would likely instead be
to Washington sometime over the summer. PolMinCouns offered
to provide all possible assistance in ensuring a good program
of meetings with the U.S. Congress as well as Administration
officials. Lemieux expressed warm appreciation.

2. (SBU) Lemieux said that the Special Committee would kick
off its substantive work with a hearing on May 1 featuring
the new Special Representative of the UN Secretary General
for Afghanistan Kai Eide, who is in Ottawa on April 30 and
May 1. (According to the Department of Foreign Affairs and
International Trade, Eide will also meet with members of the
new Cabinet Committee on Afghanistan, including its chairman
Minister of International Trade David Emerson, Foreign
Minister Maxime Bernier, Defence Minister Peter MacKay,
Minister of Public Security Stockwell Day, and Minister of
International Cooperation Bev Oda.) Lemieux said that the
Special Committee was still finalizing its plans for future
meetings, which will thereafter take place on Wednesday
evenings between 6:30 and 8:30, a time Lemieux said the
Special Committee had picked explicitly to ensure a televised
hearing room and wider coverage. His goal is to use these
weekly televised sessions to get as much information to the
public as possible about what Canada and the international
community were doing in Afghanistan and to point to progress
on both military and developmental fronts, in order to
counteract public doubts that the mission had any genuine
hope of succeeding. He noted that public pride in the
Canadian Forces remains high, in large part due to the
leadership of outgoing Chief of Defence Staff General Rick
Hillier (ref b). He expressed the hope that, as the public
learned more about what was actually happening on the ground
in Kandahar beyond the bad news that the media chose to
report, overall support for the mission would increase.

3. (SBU) Comment: Keeping the Liberals on board in support
of the Afghan Mission is important to the minority
Conservative government, and the initial dynamics within the
new Special Committee seem to bode well. Mission Canada will
Qnew Special Committee seem to bode well. Mission Canada will
work hard to maintain close and productive contacts with
Special Committee members (the DCM will host a lunch for
Liberal Foreign Affairs Critic Bob Rae on May 13), and will
notify the Department as soon as the Special Committee pins
down its travel dates to Washington.

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

WILKINS

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