U.S Senators Urge Canada to Stay in Afghanistan

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (AP) -- Two leading U.S. senators on defense issues urged Canada on Saturday to remain in Afghanistan past 2011 and switch from a combat to a training role.

Sens. John McCain said Lindsey Graham, who both sit on the Armed Services Committee, said on the sidelines of the Halifax International Security Forum on Saturday they are asking NATO allies like Canada to train Afghan soldiers and police.

McCain said he doesn't think Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has made up his mind. McCain said Canada's response to the U.S. request has been measured.

He said the Canadian government thinks they need to gage the public's sentiment.

Parliament has mandated that the military mission in southern Kandahar province end in 2011. Canada has about 2,900 troops there. The country has lost more than 150 soldiers in Afghanistan since it first sent troops there after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

"We try to point out to the Canadian government and people that we appreciate all the sacrifices that have been made enormously, but we also would hope that they would consider leaving trainers there," McCain said.

"I think they realize that it's a very important mission, but I don't think they are ready yet to publicly state which way. I don't think the prime minister has made a decision yet."

Asked about the remarks by the senators, Harper spokesman Dimitri Soudas said "the combat mission will end in 2011."

Harper told U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton earlier this year that Canada's military mission in Afghanistan will end in 2011 despite U.S. hopes of an extension.