OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada’s House of Commons defeated a motion by opposition legislators on Tuesday to pull Canadian troops from Afghanistan on schedule in February 2009.
Legislators voted 150 to 134 against a nonbinding Liberal Party motion calling for the withdrawal of the 2,500 soldiers in early 2009. The Conservative government says the mission will end on time, but opposition parties suspect the troops will stay longer.
The NATO-led mission was supposed to end in February 2007 but in May 2006 the Conservatives persuaded Parliament to approve a two-year extension.
Since then, the number of Canadian soldiers killed in clashes with Taliban militants has spiked upward. Canada has lost 54 troops so far, nine in the last two weeks.
Critics say Canada is paying too much attention to fighting the Taliban and not enough to rebuilding the shattered country.
“Parliament did not vote for an open-ended counter-insurgency mission,” Liberal Defense Critic Denis Coderre said in a statement decrying Conservative opposition to the motion.
The left-leaning New Democratic Party joined with the Conservatives to defeat the motion. The NDP says the troops should be brought home immediately.