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Canadian PM: No New Strategy, No New Troops

Brian Beutler flags an interview Fareed Zakaria conducted with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper about contributing additional troops to Afghanistan or continuing the Canadian deployment after 2011, when it’s slated to end. Harper says that if President Obama asks him to re-up or step up in Afghanistan, he’ll reply:

“What is your plan to leave Afghanistan for the Afghans, so they can govern? Because there are enormous risks for us, enormous challenges. And I’m not saying we can’t improve things. But … if President Obama wants anybody to do more, I’d ask very hard questions about what is the strategy for success and for an eventual departure.”

It’s kind of hard to argue with that, and I doubt many in the Obama administration would.

What’s more broadly significant is how Harper clearly sees Canada’s continuing efforts in Afghanistan not as a national priority for Canada, but as an element of support to an American interest. Notice, for instance, that he doesn’t say he wants to *contribute *to a new strategy in Afghanistan — just that he won’t go along with America’s strategy unless he has a sense of its soundness.

To be clear, I’m not arguing that the Afghanistan war is or isn’t a Canadian interest. Just that Harper’s phrasing clarifies why Defense Secretary Bob Gates will most likely continue to get a tepid response when he presses NATO countries for more troops at the alliance’s 60th anniversary meeting next month.

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