Canada Brings Up Troops at Summit
Byline: Jon Ward, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
MONTEBELLO, Quebec - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper yesterday told President Bush that his country's troop commitment to Afghanistan may face political obstacles in about 18 months, and also pressed the U.S. to ease new border-enforcement rules that Canadians consider an inconvenience.
"The prime minister affirmed that Canada would continue with its current mission through February of 2009 and explained to the president the dynamic of [how] Afghanistan is considered within Canada," said Dan Fisk, an adviser to Mr. Bush on Western Hemispheric affairs with the National Security Council.
"The president now has a better understanding in terms of not only the dynamics here, but also that at some point the prime minister will need to go back to Parliament .. on what the mission will be beyond 2009," said Mr Fisk, referring to the date that Canada's current commitment of troops ends.
Mr. Fisk also noted that Mr. Bush "expressed his appreciation for the contribution and the sacrifices that Canada is and have made and are making in Afghanistan."
Mr. Bush and Mr. Harper met this afternoon at the Fairmont Le Chateau Montebello resort, a secluded retreat about midway between Ottawa and Montreal. The meetings were the first in a two-day summit with the two leaders and Mexican President Felipe Calderon.
Mr. Bush later met with Mr. Calderon, in his first direct talks with the Mexican leader since the collapse of Mr. Bush's proposed immigration reforms, a defeat Mr. Calderon publicly lamented. Mr. Fisk said the two men discussed immigration, border security, anti-drug efforts and hurricane relief.
All three men will discuss regional issues today - primarily their efforts to enhance trade and border security simultaneously through the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP). No major policy initiatives are expected from the summit, and formal announcements likely will be mostly symbolic and on smaller issues such as emergency preparedness.
Canada has about 2,500 troops in Afghanistan and has suffered 67 fatalities since 2002. They are one of the largest foreign contingents in Afghanistan besides the U.S., which has about 28,000 troops in the country. Canada has no soldiers in Iraq but is helping to pay for reconstruction.
Mr. Harper's Conservative Party does not have a majority in Parliament and so must govern through a multiparty coalition, and he faces an electorate that is "very regretful and very averse to casualties," said Christopher Sands, a scholar on U.S.-Canada relations at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
"When they see somebody killed, their public still immediately thinks, 'Maybe we shouldn't be there,' " Mr. …