The Harper government will spend $500-million a year for three years to train Afghan security forces when Canada's combat mission ends next July, Defence Minister Peter Mackay announced Tuesday.
In addition, there will be a one-time cost of $85-million to "close-out" the combat operation in Kandahar. The new training mission, which is to include 950 troops, is to continue until 2014.
The Defence Minsiter was joined by Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon and International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda in officially announcing the government's plans for Afghanistan after the troop pull out of Kandahar in July.
The announcement comes a day after opposition parties had demanded details of the proposed non-combat mission. It also comes just days before Mr. Cannon and Mr. MacKay are to join Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the NATO summit in Lisbon, Portugal scheduled for Friday and Saturday.
It is expected that Mr. Harper will inform NATO leaders about Canada's plans for its post combat role at the summit.
Canadian troops, meanwhile, will be based in and around Kabul. They will be involved in classroom training, handling of firearms, logistics and possibly some aircraft training, Mr. MacKay said.
The Defence Minister emphasized, however, that all of this training would be done on a "static enclosure" such as the training that goes on at Canadian Forces bases in Canada, such as Gagetown or Borden.
"The reality is that it's Kabul-central," Mr. MacKay said about the new mission. "That's where we're going to have the vast majority of our trainers and it won't be in Kandahar and it won't be combat."
Canadian troops have been stationed in Kandahar, which is considered one of the most dangerous areas in Afghanistan. It is the heartland of the Taliban.
The Defence Minister said the training element is to begin as "soon as possible." It is something, however, that will have to discussed with NATO allies, he said.
The NDP, meanwhile, reacted critically to the announcement. Foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar argued that there is more emphasis on the military than aid. The New Democrats had wanted a civilian-only mission.
Mr. Dewar called it "absolutely scurrilous" that the government is not allowing a debate or vote in the Commons as to the new role.