Sunday, January 7, 2007

what mackay is up to ...

Canadian FM assures Afghan president of support
Updated at 2000 PST
Internation The News / PK

KABUL: Canada's foreign minister met President Hamid Karzai Sunday on a short visit to pledge support for insurgency-battered Afghanistan, where 2,500 Canadian troops are helping to fight the Taliban.

Foreign Minister Peter MacKay said before the meeting he would also raise Pakistan's plans to mine and fence part of its border with Afghanistan to block routes used by militants operating across the frontier.

Karzai and the United Nations have spoken out strongly against the plan, but Pakistan has not stepped down.

MacKay was due Monday to meet Canadian troops serving with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in the southern province of Kandahar -- the birthplace of the Taliban -- before returning home.

Forty-four Canadian soldiers have lost their lives in Afghanistan since 2002, the year after the Taliban were driven from power.

Around 190 foreign soldiers involved in the Afghanistan operation were killed last year, the bloodiest in the Taliban insurgency.

Around 4,000 lives were lost over the year, with rebels accounting for most of the dead, according to official figures.

The Canadian mission in the most volatile area of the country has come in for criticism from opposition parties in Ottawa and is among issues that threaten the position of the conservative minority government this year.