Canada's top general pressured lawmakers to support a motion extending the country's military mission in Afghanistan, saying extended debate may be opening its soldiers up to attacks by the Taliban.
Chief of Defense Staff General Rick Hillier said on Friday that the Taliban was watching the political debate over whether to extend Canada's operation in dangerous southern Afghanistan past next February and was looking for signs of weakness.
"We are, in the eyes of the Taliban, in a window of extreme vulnerability. And the longer we go without that clarity, with the issue in doubt, the more the Taliban will target us as a perceived weak link," Hillier said.
He said he could not rule out that Taliban suicide bombings last week may have been related to the parliamentary debate. A suicide car bomb explosion targeting a Canadian military convoy killed 37 civilians on Monday and more than 100 people were killed on Feb. 13 by a suicide bomber outside Kandahar City.
"I'm not going to stand here and tell you that the suicide bombings of this past week have been related to the debate back here in Canada. But I also cannot stand here and say that they are not," Hillier said.
"And, certainly, there is a perception out there that the Taliban will try to take advantage of the debate back here [in Canada] and try to prevent a cohesive mission and will indeed attempt to attack our Canadian Forces in Kandahar," he said.
Canada's minority Conservative government has been trying to extend the military operation in Afghanistan's Kandahar Province, the former Taliban stronghold. The government faced pressure from the opposition to withdraw Canada's troops after the deaths of 78 soldiers and a diplomat.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper unveiled a proposal on Thursday to withdraw forces in 2011. The proposal resulted from a compromise with opposition Liberals, who were against extending the mission and had threatened to force a vote aimed at toppling the government.
Parliament will vote on extending the mission next month -- a confidence vote that would trigger early elections if rejected. An agreement would avoid an early election over the issue.