Politics
Mali could be another Afghanistan: Baird

Foreign Affairs minister John Baird arrives for a committee to discuss Mali

Credits: QMI AGENCY

JESSICA MURPHY | QMI AGENCY

OTTAWA -- The Conservative government is weighing requests to send more funds and to help train troops to fight in Mali, says Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.

But speaking to the House foreign affairs committee Tuesday, he repeated the government's refusal to send armed soldiers to the West African nation.

"We re not at the drop of a hat going to get into another Afghanistan," Baird said.

In testimony earlier in the day, former Canada diplomat Robert Fowler told MPs on committee Canada should expand its mission in the conflict-ridden country because of the international security threat posed by the Jihadist terrorists in Mali and the surrounding region.

In 2008, Fowler was kidnapped by an al-Qaida-linked terror group - now operating in Mali - in nearby Niger. He was released in 2009.

"(Our captors) told us repeatedly they wish to turn the region...into one vast, chaotic, seething chaos," Fowler said. "And they believe in that chaos, their jihad will thrive."

Canada's current military involvement in Mali ends later this week. The government is providing a C-17 transport aircraft for a month to the French-led mission to help ferry troops and equipment. France intervened in Mali last month.

The federal government has also committed nearly $100 million in humanitarian aid to Mali over the past year.

A recent Harris/Decima poll indicates little support for military intervention among Canadians, with a paltry 12% of respondents saying they support sending armed Canadian soldiers for a limited time to Mali to fight the terrorists.

-- with files from Reuters

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