Why did we bother to go in the first place?

OTTAWA – Canada could soon be getting congratulatory messages from the Taliban for the Harper government’s decision to bring our troops home from Afghanistan next year.

Dutch soldiers completed their withdrawal from Afghanistan on Sunday, following a decision in February by the then-Labour government to end the four-year-old combat mission. There were 1,900 Dutch soldiers in Afghanistan and as they left, the Taliban said thanks.

“We want to congratulate the people and Government of the Netherlands for their courage in this independent decision making,” Taliban spokesman Qari Yusuf Ahmadii told the Dutch newspaper Volkrant.

The newspaper spoke to Ahmadii by telephone and through a Pashtun interpreter.

“We hope that other countries that have troops stationed in Afghanistan will follow the example of the Netherlands and will withdraw their troops,”

Ahmadii said.

Since the Dutch began their combat mission, concentrated in Uruzgan province, only 24 soldiers have died. When Canada moved operations into the southern Khandahar province in late 2005 there were just seven military deaths related to the mission stretching back to 2002. That number now sits at 151 military deaths in Afghanistan.

Parliament voted in March 2008 to extend the Afghan mission until 2011.

The combat portion of the mission is expected to wrap-up by next July with a full withdrawal of Canada’s nearly 2,800 troops by December.

There has been much speculation about Canadian troops staying on past the

2011 deadline in a training capacity. Several MPs on the special Commons committee on Afghanistan recently visited the country and returned to say staying on may be an option.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has repeatedly said the mission will end next year.

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