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Cablegate: Canadian Pm and Defmin Praise Afghan Mission,

VZCZCXRO0578
OO RUEHGA RUEHHA RUEHIK RUEHPOD RUEHPW RUEHQU RUEHVC RUEHYG
DE RUEHOT #2322/01 3612313
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 272313Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY OTTAWA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7081
INFO RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL IMMEDIATE 0152
RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO IMMEDIATE 0859
RUCNAFG/AFGHANISTAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNCAN/ALL CANADIAN POSTS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA PRIORITY 1327
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/WHITE HOUSE NSC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK PRIORITY 0365
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE PRIORITY 0108

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 OTTAWA 002322

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL MOPS MARR AF CA
SUBJECT: CANADIAN PM AND DEFMIN PRAISE AFGHAN MISSION,
ADMONISH IRAN

1. (U) Summary: Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay,
Chief of Defense Staff Rick Hillier, and U.S. Ambassador
David Wilkins visited Canadian troops in Kandahar on
Christmas day. MacKay underscored the "remarkable progress"
in Afghanistan, while the Ambassador praised Canada's
contribution to securing and rebuilding Afghanistan. MacKay
also used the occasion to urge Iran and Pakistan to stop the
flow of weapons and explosives from their countries to
terrorist forces in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, in Ottawa, Prime
Minister Harper took advantage of end-of-year interviews to
encourage Canadians to support the extension of Canadian
participation in the ISAF mission in Kandahar. He also
pressed opposition parties to resist the temptation to
exploit popular concerns about Canadian casualties and NATO
burden-sharing in Afghanistan for short-term political gain.
End summary.

DEFMIN MACKAY EMPHASIZES PROGRESS IN AFGHANISTAN...
--------------------------------------------- ------

2. (U) Speaking to reporters on December 25 just after having
served Canadian troops Christmas dinner, Defense Minister
Peter MacKay emphasized that, while Parliament will
ultimately decide whether Canadian troops remain in
Afghanistan past their February 2009 mandate, the Canadian
government does "not want to leave work undone." Canada
should stick with Afghanistan until it is a "functional,
secure, self-sustaining country," he said. MacKay noted that
"remarkable progress" had been made in the country, stressing
that five or six years is a "relatively short time, in the
grand scheme of things, to build a country that has been
under such difficult circumstances for so many years."

3. (U) Canadian media quoted U.S. Ambassador to Canada David
Wilkins, who participated in the visit at MacKay's request,
as calling Canada's contribution in Afghanistan "a great
example of what a freedom-loving people can do to help other
people gain freedom and democracy."

...URGES IRAN, PAKISTAN TO INTERDICT WEAPONS
--------------------------------------------

4. (U) MacKay also used the visit to publicly urge Iran and
Pakistan to stop the flow of weapons and explosives,
particularly IEDs, to terrorist groups that are targeting
NATO forces in Afghanistan. MacKay said that Canada has
registered its concerns with Iran and Pakistan, and that
Canada is "very concerned" that weapons are entering
Afghanistan from Iran.

PM HARPER CALLS ON CANADIANS TO SUPPORT ISAF MISSION
--------------------------------------------- -------

5. (U) In his year-end interview with the Canadian Press, PM
Harper said his government would ask Parliament to vote by
spring on what kind of mission Canada should undertake in
Afghanistan after the current mandate expires in February
2009. But Harper acknowledged the political complexity of
the issue. Asked if he believed Canadians truly appreciated
what was at stake in deciding whether to extend the mandate
to 2011, Harper responded, "I don't know. The short answer
is I don't know." He said that Canada had taken on an
important international commitment that would directly impact
Qimportant international commitment that would directly impact
Canada in the long run, but was not sure this understanding
was shared by the Canadian people, who he believed are
"deeply troubled" by the casualties. Harper urged the
opposition parties to resist the temptation to use the issue
for short-term political advantage rather than taking a
decision that is in "the long run interest of the country,
its international reputation, and the sacrifice our men and
women have made to secure it."

COMMENT
-------

6. (SBU) With the Manley Panel report due to be released
within the next month, the Canadian government will need to
make a tough decision on whether to call a parliamentary vote
on the mission this winter, or to delay the vote until the
spring in hopes that Canada's NATO allies will commit more

OTTAWA 00002322 002 OF 002


troops at the April NATO meeting. PM Harper's government is
working hard to increase support for extending the mission,
with MacKay's trip to Afghanistan playing well in the press,
especially as it fell on the heels of visits to Afghanistan
by the French and Australian leaders, who raised hopes that
those two countries might contribute additional combat forces
to the effort in southern Afghanistan.

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

BREESE

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