Asia Crisis

Canadian PM says Afghan war can never be won

WASHINGTON, March 1 (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Sunday the insurgency in Afghanistan cannot be defeated and Canada would not provide more troops without a clear exit strategy.

Harper said in a CNN interview that Afghanistan needs an indigenous government that can manage the insurgency and is not perceived as foreign-installed.

"We are not going to win this war just by staying," Harper said. "My own judgment is, quite frankly, that we are not going to ever defeat the insurgency."

"We have to have an Afghan government that is capable of managing that insurgency and improving its own governance," he told CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS."

U.S.-led forces toppled the Islamist Taliban government in 2001 for harboring the al Qaeda network responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks against the United States. But a Taliban insurgency has steadily gained ground in the last few years.

Canada has about 2,700 soldiers based in Kandahar in southern Afghanistan as part of the NATO mission. The Canadian mission is due to end in 2011. More than 100 Canadian soldiers have been killed in the conflict.

President Barack Obama, who has ordered more U.S. troops to Afghanistan to stem the rising violence, visited Harper on his first trip abroad on Feb. 19, but he did not press the Canadian leader for additional military contributions.

Harper said he welcomed Obama's renewed commitment to Afghanistan and his plan to send more American troops there.

"But over the long haul, if President Obama wants anybody to do more, I would ask very hard questions about what is the strategy for success and for an eventual departure," he said.

Harper said his view of Afghan history was that the country has been in a permanent state of insurgency.

"If we think that we are going to govern Afghanistan for the Afghans or over the long-term be responsible for day-to-day security in Afghanistan and see that country improve, we are mistaken," he said. (Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Doina Chiacu)