David Emerson, centre, tours the Dahla Dam project on Friday during his first trip to Afghanistan since becoming foreign affairs minister.
Canada may expand its troop commitment in Afghanistan by almost 10 per cent in order to service the helicopters about to be deployed to the region, Foreign Affairs Minister David Emerson indicated Saturday.
Emerson talked about the size of the Canadian contingent during a stop in Kabul on Saturday at the end of a two-day visit to Afghanistan, his first since becoming foreign affairs minister in June.
"Canada does have 2,500 troops here in Afghanistan and that number could expand to 2,700 as more equipment arrives," he said.
The Canadian military expects to have six Chinook helicopters as well as unmanned aerial drones in place by February.
On Friday, Emerson was flown to the site of a dam reconstruction project that Canada is spearheading in the Arghandab River valley in northern Kandahar province.
Canada has promised to invest as much as $50 million over three years to repair the dam and its irrigation system.
The dam is located in the area that has seen some of the fiercest fighting between Canadian troops and Taliban militants this year.
During his tour, the minister said he is optimistic about reconstruction, but also aware that Taliban militants are determined to keep fighting.
Emerson said he was struck by the magnitude of the challenge of rebuilding and stabilizing the country.
"The Taliban is not going to go away, not in the near term, and it will be something that will be managed with great care and vigour for a good time to come," he said.
The minister said there are "risks and cycles" to the violence, adding that elections scheduled for 2009 "will undoubtedly be a motivator for the Taliban" to launch attacks.
While in Kabul, Emerson met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and the two men discussed the security situation near Afghanistan's border with Pakistan.
"Canada does have concerns about the insurgency platform, if you like, that is developing, has developed in the border regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan," Emerson said. "We believe that ultimately, there has to be a collaborative approach to solving the situation."