Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Tuesday his government has no plans to prolong Canada's combat role in Afghanistan beyond its February 2009 commitment...
But when asked whether he has any desire to prolong the combat mission in southern Afghanistan beyond 2009, Harper said "No."
"I think Canadians are expecting that if we're in Afghanistan after 2009, it would be a new mission," Harper told a Calgary radio talk show on Tuesday. "Canadians have been fairly clear that if we were to be in after 2009, that they would expect our participation to evolve in some way."
So much for the "moral" necessity rhetoric:
"I don't believe the prime minister. He's given the signal from Day 1 that he wants to extend it," Coderre said in an interview. The government, he noted, has invested billions in new military equipment that won't be delivered until 2009 or later.
Some political observers have suggested the Harper government has softened its stance in recent weeks on whether to extend the Afghanistan mission due to eroding public support.
David Bercuson, director of the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary, said Harper would almost certainly extend the mission if he had a majority government.
But he's rethinking his strategy as it becomes clear there won't be majority support in the House of Commons for the initiative, and might be publicly negotiating with the Liberals and NATO, he said.
"He's clearly feeling a lot of heat from the public opinion polls," Bercuson said Tuesday. "If he's asking himself what's more important -- that I maintain governance or that I get approval for a combat mission, then a combat mission is coming second."
Cut and run Harper, let's call a spade a spade. Can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen. Fairweather hawk? I'm not sure if the change has sunk in with the media, but Harper has made a seismic shift, one that betrays EVERY SINGLE speech he has made since he took office.
The introduction of "consensus", and now the position that he favors a "new mission" are clearly based on public opinion, to which Harper himself refers. Remember, this is the government that will not be guided by political consideration on a matter so fundamental to Canadian ideals and obligations. What I find strange, why isn't Harper addressing the nation, in an effort to bolster support? Why, if this is a matter of principle, one Harper was prepared to take the people, is he now in full retreat?
As was brought up in the comments, in another thread, the Harper Conservatives have now adopted the Liberal position. The same Liberal position that has been openly mocked and described as traitorous. What about all the pius rants and accusations, levelled towards anyone who suggested a "re-think", a "different direction"? I could accept Harper's new found pragmatism, cough, poll gazing, if not for the way in which he so vilified others, who were apparently ahead of the curve. One word comes to mind in describing this shift, gutless.