Reducing troop deaths will be tough: general
Published Friday, July 27, 2007 8:09PM EDT
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - The increased number of insurgent attacks in Afghanistan will make it difficult to prevent the number of Canadian deaths in the conflict from rising, says Canada's new military commander in the war-torn country.
Brig.-Gen. Guy Laroche made the comment in Kandahar on Friday as he arrived to replace Brig.-Gen. Tim Grant, who is leaving after a nine-month stay.
"Reducing losses is always difficult,'' Laroche told reporters after he climbed off a transport plane that brought him to his new command.
He said the situation on the ground does little to suggest there will be a lessening of fatalities with the arrival of a new contingent of soldiers who will take on the mission for the next six months.
Combat missions will take a toll but an increased threat is being posed by the more frequent use of improvised explosive devices and suicide bombers, Laroche suggested.
Eighteen of the 23 Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan in the last six months were felled by roadside bombs and there is nothing to suggest the insurgents will let up, Laroche said.
"We had very few losses following the engagements but we must deal with the IEDs,'' Laroche said. "Even if we are very well prepared, the risk is always there.''
The need to reduce Canadian losses has put greater emphasis on training the Afghan National Army.
"It is necessary to do that so that the Afghan security forces can take on a larger role,'' Laroche said. "In this case, we are in a supporting role.''
However, Canadian troops will remain on the ground "and the risks will always be there.''
Laroche's concerns about future casualties echoes comments made by politicians in recent weeks.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said his government doesn't treat military deaths lightly but that it won't alter its plan to maintain the current operation until 2009.
Sixty-six Canadian soldiers have died in Afghanistan since 2002.
Laroche was met at the plane by Grant, who will leave Afghanistan soon. Laroche officially takes over command of the mission next week.
Laroche holds degrees in business administration and has served abroad on peacekeeping missions in Cyprus in 1981 and 1992 and Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1997 and 1999.