Coderre arrives in Kandahar to speak with troops
Published Monday, October 8, 2007 10:47PM EDT
Liberal defence critic Denis Coderre arrived in Kandahar Monday but was greeted by only a handful of Canadian troops, and some were uncomfortable with his party's position that Canada should end its combat role in Afghanistan by 2009.
"We feel that rotation is in order and we should put an end to the combat mission," said Coderre.
Soldiers have given Coderre room and board and briefings on how the mission is going. The military, however, has asked him to stay on base for his own protection.
"I want to respect that. I am here to be with the troops and listen to them," he said.
The trip was in sharp contrast with Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier's visit over the past weekend.
Bernier was warmly welcomed by many soldiers and flown to the front lines, where troops are operating west of Kandahar City.
Coderre, who has accused the Conservative government of ignoring his requests to join an official tour of Afghanistan, decided to make his own impromptu visit.
He said he spent his own money to pay for the $4,000 trip.
On Sunday, Bernier and International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda completed a 36-hour tour of Afghanistan and the Canadian military's work there.
CTV's Steve Chao said Coderre wanted to understand the mission from a first-hand perspective.
"He believes it will help the debate as to whether Canada should pull its combat troops out by 2009," Chao told CTV Newsnet on Monday.
"Coderre said he is here for a few days to, in his words, live with the troops and see the mission through their eyes."
He has already met with a senior World Bank infrastructure specialist in Kabul, members of the Afghan Research and Evaluation Unit, and had a briefing from the deputy head of the Canadian mission.
Coderre has several other meetings scheduled before he wraps up his tour and returns home.
The Conservatives have accused Coderre of staging a stunt, while the Liberal MP accuses the government of overplaying successes in Afghanistan.
While Bernier and Oda received a warm reception from troops in Afghanistan, Chao described Coderre's reception as "chilly."
"There's not much of a reception for Denis Coderre," Chao said. "There weren't the lines of troops there ready, waiting to meet and greet him, so Denis Coderre is getting perhaps a bit of a chilly reception, perhaps because of the Liberals' view of pulling our troops out by 2009."
The Canadian Commander in Afghanistan, Brigadier General Guy Laroche, said he welcomes visits from all politicians, adding that it provides an opportunity for them to discuss the mission.
Though Coderre has accused the government of playing petty politics by not approving his visit, the Conservatives maintain the previous Liberal government brought in a policy that denied lone MPs from visiting Afghanistan.
With a report by CTV's Steve Chao in Kandahar