A conciliatory Prime Minister Stephen Harper welcomed as “important progress” Liberal amendments to his government's motion in the House of Commons to extend the Canadian combat mission in Afghanistan to 2011.
Mr. Harper said his government would seriously consider the Liberal proposals, which include an end to combat operations in 2009 and full troop withdrawal from Kandahar in February 2011.
Mr. Harper said the Liberal's commitment to a continued military presence in the country post 2009 is “really very close to the government's position” and he raised the possibility the Conservatives would introduce a new motion on the matter.
“I'd like to say just how pleased I am to see greater clarity by the Liberals on their position in Afghanistan,” Mr. Harper told reporters in French.
“The government intends to examine these proposals in greater detail ... so as to give a more wide-ranging answer and perhaps a new motion.”
The fact Harper offers to introduce another motion is a huge signal that a compromise can be reached. The last remaining point of contention, defining the "military presence", what constitutes combat. I suspect the Conservatives may give in on the other Liberal requirements, introduce them in a new motion, but holdout on allowing for a combat role. You would then have the appearance of a deal, hinging on this one aspect, and in the end, the Liberals may find enough to support it. Some careful crafting of the combat language, which doesn't tie the hands of the military, and it could all come together.