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A health worker administers the polio vaccine to a child in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Majid Saeedi/Majid Saeedi/Getty Images)
A health worker administers the polio vaccine to a child in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Majid Saeedi/Majid Saeedi/Getty Images)

Ottawa maps out post-combat role in Afghanistan Add to ...

The Canadian government has mapped out plans for a non-combat mission in Afghanistan after 2011 that would spend close to $600-million over three years to prevent the country from becoming a "haven for terrorists," declassified documents show.

A spring 2010 PowerPoint presentation, stamped "Secret, Canadian Eyes Only," offers further evidence of how solidly committed Ottawa is to ending the military mission in Afghanistan despite pressure from allies to keep a combat force there.

The presentation, obtained under an access to information request for records from Chief of Defence Staff General Walt Natynczyk's office, quotes Prime Minister Stephen Harper's January, 2010, pledge that Afghanistan "will become a strictly civilian mission after 2011."

It lays out a plan for the post-military phase of Canada's involvement in Afghanistan that concentrates on development and diplomacy, envisioning a "modest engagement focused out of Kabul," the capital.

The document proposes "total mission expenditures" in Afghanistan of $549-million between 2012 and 2014, adding there would be new funding required for security at Canada's embassy in Kabul.

The seven-page presentation is entitled "Canada's Engagement in Afghanistan 2011-2014" and is labelled a "draft." It bears the Government of Canada logo on each page.

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Defence officials said privately Monday the document was authored by the Privy Council Office - the central bureaucratic agency that serves the prime minister and is helping steer the Afghanistan mission.

They said Gen. Natynczyk likely received a copy after attending a presentation this spring. The access to information search had requested records prepared for him in April, 2010.

Questions have repeatedly arisen about whether the Conservative government might backtrack on a 2008 election promise to withdraw combat forces from Afghanistan in 2011. A Tory senator and even senior Liberals have talked up the prospect of keeping a soldiering force in the south-central Asian country past that date.

But Mr. Harper has been adamant that Canada's combat mission - which has claimed the lives of 151 soldiers - will cease in 2011.

The presentation says Ottawa is planning to shrink foreign-policy goals in Afghanistan to four "themes" from six existing priorities.

The overall objectives, the document says, would be the "need to prevent re-emergence of [Afghanistan]rdquo; as a base for terrorism and to contribute to a better future for Afghans.

The new themes would include a focus on "Afghan children and youth;" "promoting regional diplomacy" given Afghanistan's proximity to Taliban forces in Pakistan; "advancing the rule of law and human rights" and "delivering humanitarian assistance."

Canada's post-2011 funding would include $9.7-million to support the RCMP's international training program that deploys Mounties to Afghanistan to train local police.

A Foreign Affairs spokesman played down the significance of the "post-2011" presentation.

"The document prepared is a draft," said Jean-Bruno Villeneuve, an adviser to Ottawa's Afghanistan task force.

"Officials continue to develop options for consideration for Canada's engagement in Afghanistan after 2011," he said. Discussions are not finished "and an announcement will be made in due course."

The presentation says that the "U.S., NATO and [other]allies" have asked for post-2011 contributions including training Afghan National Security Forces - a job that could require Canadian soldiers to stay behind.

It also said allies have asked Canada to make further donations to security and stabilization funds for Afghanistan beyond what's pledged until 2011.

These include the Afghan National Army Trust Fund, which supports the expansion and equipping of Afghanistan government soldiers.

Allies also want Canada to contribute to the Peace and Reintegration Trust Fund, an idea approved at a meeting of 70 countries this year as an initiative to buy off Taliban fighters. It would provide those who renounce the Taliban with jobs and housing.

The document says the Canadian International Development Agency will deliver $100-million, $80-million and $75-million in programs for Afghanistan over 2012, 2013 and 2014, respectively. The Department of Foreign Affairs will deliver $37.5-million annually in programs, it says.

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