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Harper: Canadian Troops Will Not 'Cut and Run' from Afghanistan


Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper wrapped up a two-day visit to Afghanistan Tuesday. The newly elected Canadian leader told reporters that the foreign troops deployed to Afghanistan are playing a critical role in helping win the global war against terrorism. Canada has about 2,300 troops in Afghanistan as part of the multinational peacekeeping force.

The prime minister's visit comes amid twin political challenges in both countries.

In Afghanistan, the anti-government Taleban insurgency is spreading and intensifying throughout the country.

Meanwhile in Canada, opposition leaders are mounting a campaign against the country's military deployment to Afghanistan.

The Canadian debate has worried local Afghan officials who freely admit the country's security depends on foreign troops.

In comments apparently intended for audiences both in Afghanistan and in Canada, Prime Minister Stephen Harper told reporters Tuesday that Canadian troops would not "cut and run."

"We can ignore the dangers if we want, but the dangers will not ignore us," he said. "Unless we control the security situation in countries like Afghanistan we will see our own security diminished."

Harper spoke during a joint news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai outside the presidential palace in Kabul.

Monday the prime minister met with Canadian troops in southern Afghanistan, where they just assumed command of coalition forces tracking Taleban and al- Qaida insurgents.

Canada, which did not send troops to either Iraq or Vietnam, has lost 10 soldiers and a diplomat in Afghanistan.

Tuesday, as U.S. military helicopters flew overhead, President Karzai Tuesday thanked the prime minister for Canada's sacrifice and reiterated the importance of their fight.

"The reason the international community is in Afghanistan, the reason the whole world is united in the fight against terror is because terrorism can affect anyone, anywhere, anytime," he said.

Mr. Karzai also called on neighboring Pakistan to improve cooperation in the fight against terrorism.

In the last few weeks the two countries, both key U.S. allies in the war against terror, have exchanged increasingly barbed accusations over border security.

Afghan officials claim Taleban insurgents have established training camps inside Pakistan.

And Sunday, several officials insisted Pakistan's secret security agency helped coordinate a botched assassination attempt against the head of Afghanistan's upper house of Parliament.

Pakistan has flatly rejected the accusations. Prime Minister Harper's next stop is Islamabad, and he has promised to convey Afghanistan's concerns.

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