Harper accepts main Manley recommendations
Meagan Fitzpatrick , Canwest News ServicePublished: Monday, January 28, 2008
OTTAWA - Prime Minister Stephen Harper says his government accepts the main recommendations in the Manley report, including the demand that NATO provide more assistance in the Afghan south as a pre-condition for extending Canada's mission there.
"I have spoken with Mr. Manley and advised him that our government broadly accepts the recommendations put forward by the panel on Canada's future in Afghanistan," Harper said at a news conference in Ottawa.
The prime minister said he also agrees with the specific conditions set out by the five-member independent panel that should be met in order to extend the mission beyond February 2009.
Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper listens to a question during a news conference responding to the report from the Independent Panel on Canada's Future Role in Afghanistan, in
The report, produced by a panel headed by former Liberal deputy prime minister John Manley, said Canada should only extend its mission if it can convince its allies to commit at least 1,000 more troops and if the Canadian military receives helicopters and surveillance drones.
"In other words, while the case for the Afghan mission is clearly compelling, the decision to allow our young men and women in uniform to continue to be in harm's way demands the responsibility to give them a strong chance of success," Harper said.
"Both of the recommendations will have to be fulfilled or Canada will not proceed with the mission in Afghanistan."
The prime minister said the military equipment has been on order for some time, but that securing it and getting it in the field has been delayed because it is some of the most sought after equipment "on the planet."
Harper said that over the last two years his government has begun introducing other measures along the lines of what was suggested in the report.
Until Monday, Harper had said little about what he thinks about the report. He briefly referred to it on Friday during a speech to Tory supporters in Ottawa, calling it "strong, balanced and realistic," but had not yet said what he thought about its recommendations.
Harper said the government will introduce a motion in the House of Commons this spring "seeking support for Canada's way forward."
He spoke to Liberal Leader Stephane Dion on Sunday about having a debate on the motion, Harper said, and he plans to speak further with Dion later this week.
Harper said his government has reached a "tentative"_decision about whether to hold a vote in the House of Commons before he attends a major NATO meeting in Bucharest in April, or after, but that he wants to discuss that with Dion first. The Bloc Quebecois and NDP both want Canada out of Afghanistan so the Conservatives have to work with the Liberals in order to get the mission extended.
He said in the coming weeks his government will more fully respond and react to the other recommendations in the report.
The report was critical of the government's management of the mission and urged Harper to personally take on a more active diplomatic role. It also said the government needs to improve its communications strategy so that Canadians are better informed about the war in Afghanistan.
Harper said he accepts the criticisms in the report and takes them seriously.
"This is an extremely difficult mission, we don't believe it's perfect, we never have," he said, adding that no other issue has caused him more headaches and heartaches than the war in Afghanistan.
"We accept the judgment that there are several things that could be done better," he said.
Harper said he will personally be speaking with the leaders of other NATO allies and will share the recommendations of the Manley report with NATO when he attends the April summit.
Harper said the alliance's efforts in southern Afghanistan, where the Canadian troops are stationed, have not been adequate. The alliance's reputation and future credibility hinges on success in Afghanistan, Harper said, and he added that he is "optimistic" that NATO will come through on delivering the help Canada is seeking.