OTTAWA ó Canada has been asked by NATO to consider taking over the command of the entire Afghanistan mission in 2008, a senior government official says. This request, as well as a NATO meeting scheduled for next week in which the future of the Afghanistan mission will be discussed, is in part behind the government's sudden decision to hold a vote tonight on whether to extend Canada's commitment to the mission by two years, according to the official.
Canada has about 2,300 troops in Afghanistan. The official said that Canada could just "barely" take over the command in two years.
All of this is expected to come out later today from the government in the debate on extending Canadian involvement in the mission to 2009, the official said.
But Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay hinted at it yesterday outside the House of Commons:
"What has changed, obviously, is there is going to be a command change in the near future," he said of the need for a debate and vote.