Ottawa — Stephen Harper is considering one of the most chaotic corners of Afghanistan as a preferred destination for his first prime ministerial foreign trip.
Perilous, sandswept Kandahar is being weighed against a more genteel option — visits with the presidents of the U.S. and Mexico — for Mr. Harper's first trip abroad.
Mr. Harper is expected to make all those stops eventually. He began pondering the Afghanistan option in the days after his election win.
In a post-election briefing with top military brass, Mr. Harper was urged to visit Canadian troops stationed in the southern Afghan city.
The prime minister was told that such a visit would send a strong message about his commitment to the military, and about Canada's desire to make a difference in the world.
Partisanship aside, I think it would be a great political move for Harper to show up in Kandahar. Images of Harper with our troops, demonstrating our resolve would surely make for good press(I can hear Don Cherry now). Harper would solidify himself as strong leader, with practical application. The Conservative strategists proved masters at propaganda during the campaign, I can see how this opportunity is attractive for their purposes.
Apart from politics, a Harper visit would focus attention on an increasingly dangerous mission. I'm not convinced that Canadians have a good understanding of what is happening in the Kandahar region. Essentially, Canada is now on the frontlines and can expect the body bags to prove it. A Harper visit would force more discussion on what our goals are as our role increases, while simulatenously the security situation worsens. Canadians still see ourselves as peacekeepers, when in fact it is a combat zone, with a clearly defined enemy. The tight security involved for a Harper visit may act as a sobering reminder of the true mission.