Afghan training mission will include medical component
Defence Minister Peter MacKay speaks with a Canadian troop while visiting a forward operating base in Zangabad, Afghanistan on Thursday, March 17, 2011. (Tara Brautigam / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
The Associated Press
Published Thursday, March 17, 2011 1:28PM EDT
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - Canada's defence minister has wrapped up a tour of Afghanistan, visiting the sites where the military could be stationed for its future training mission in the war-torn country.
Peter MacKay visited several locations in Afghanistan this week, including Mazar-e-Sharif which he named as one possible place where military trainers could be once Canadian combat operations wind down this summer.
MacKay said there will be a medical component to the training mission and efforts to strengthen the Afghan National Security Forces will continue.
"As to the type of work we'll be doing, clearly the focus is on building capacity of the Afghan security forces, both army and police," MacKay said Thursday at Kandahar Airfield.
"But in addition to that, we saw a medical facility, so there's an element of medical training that will occur as part of our contribution."
He declined to give an exact figure on the number of military and civilian personnel that would be needed, but said a final decision on such details would soon come.
"I'm able to go back now with a much more informed view and make a recommendation to cabinet, to the prime minister for a final decision, because there is some urgency," MacKay said.
Canada's 2,800 troops stationed in Kandahar will end combat operations by the end of July, but up to 950 troops and support staff will remain in Afghanistan on the training mission until 2014.
MacKay concluded his Afghan tour today in Kandahar, where he met with troops in Panjwaii with Canada's top soldier, Gen. Walt Natynczyk.