Close friend floats a little sweet talk

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It's nice to feel wanted. On the other hand, opinions in Canada are so varied on the country's role in Afghanistan, people will nervously observe whether the wish expressed by Hillary Clinton on our presence there will have any bearing.Secretary of state for the U.S., Clinton delivered what was not exactly a bombshell Monday in a national TV interview, while in the country for G8 meetings, that the U.S. would like to see Canada's military stay beyond the planned 2011 departure date. Not a bombshell because this country's contribution has been praised and the possibility of staying on has at least been hinted at before.

For his part, Prime Minister Stephen Harper insists the military mission won't be extended. One of his spokesmen also said that the issue hadn't been raised in any official way between Clinton and Harper.

Thus, did her comments come entirely from left field? If so, could they possibly carry any weight?

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff expressed suspicion. In this context he said it's not credible that the United States hasn't made a formal request.

We should stress that the country's involvement is not somehow Conservative-made. Some have a selective memory on this and tend to forget that Canada entered shoulder-to-shoulder with the U.S. and other NATO allies while the Liberals were in power.

Perhaps it is, as some suspect, that this is one way to indirectly check the public pulse on a future direction.

There is little doubt, as Harper has said, that the military mission will end in 2011. Wide disenchantment among Canadians will ensure that.

Suggestions from Clinton include continuation, perhaps in the role of training Afghan troops and police or in the key reconstruction projects Canada has led.

Some Canadians want a clear cut from Afghanistan. But others would be happy with a more supportive role, as in construction or peacekeeping, as Canadians are used to. Surely it is this kind of feeling the government hopes to gauge.

Organizations: NATO

Geographic location: Canada, United States, Afghanistan

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