Aide denies Hillier was leashed by Ottawa
Published Thursday, November 1, 2007 7:38AM EDT
An aide to Gen. Rick Hillier is denying reports that Canada's top soldier has been leashed by Ottawa following comments he made about Afghanistan last week.
The Globe and Mail reported Thursday that Hillier had been told to tone down his political comments on the mission.
"He got his marching orders," a senior government official told the newspaper on Wednesday. "He was reminded what his role is. His role is not to be the chief spokesperson for the mission."
Hillier spoke out last week on the direction of the Afghanistan mission, telling reporters that it could be 10 years before the country's army is in a position to fend for itself.
The comments seemed to contradict what Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in the throne speech -- that the objective could be accomplished by 2011.
Hillier then backed away from the controversy telling CTV's Mike Duffy Live that he was on the exact "same sheet of paper" with Harper.
"What I talked about was building the total Afghan national army, which is not our responsibility. Our piece is in Kandahar province itself," Hillier said.
"Our piece in Kandahar province, the speech from the throne was pretty clear on what the government is looking towards. I believe that's eminently doable."
Hillier was not available for comment Wednesday but an aide told The Globe that Hillier was never reprimanded.
"He has received no direction to change his course on his public comments," said Major Holly Apostoliuk, the general's public affairs officer.
"There is no need because he and the government of Canada are of one view and of one approach re the mission."
Apostoliuk would not comment on whether Hillier had spoken to government officials about the situation.
However, the senior official said Hillier is now "on a bit of a leash, or a trial if you will."
"He pulled in his horns, but there has to be a recognition that he may have gotten away with this once, he's not going to do it again," said the source.
"He needs to do his job and leave the politics to those who are assigned to that task and who have the elected mandate behind him."
Since 2002, 71 Canadian soldiers and one diplomat have been killed in Afghanistan.
Canada and its 2,500 troops are only committed to the Afghan mission until February 2009, although Harper has appointed a blue-ribbon panel to make recommendations on the mission's future.