New Democrat MP disagrees with Layton's call to withdraw from Afghanistan

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Saturday, September 2, 2006

New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton's call to withdraw the 2,000 Canadian troops stationed in Afghanistan by February 2007 has not been universally greeted by his caucus.

NDP Member of Parliament Peter Stoffer of Nova Scotia said his views were more in line with those expressed by Liberal defence critic Ujjal Dosanjh who supports keeping troops in Afghanistan but altering their mission. Stoffer represents a riding that includes a large military base.

"To be honest with you, Mr. Dosanjh got it right the other day when he said just to extend the mission for two years without a proper debate and a plan is wrong, but to do an immediate pullout, or a very quick pullout, is also wrong, Stoffer said to the Globe and Mail adding "without a comprehensive plan, what are you pulling out for? What are you leaving behind?"

Layton said on Thursday that Canada must withdraw its troops as there is no "comprehensive strategy to achieve peace", no clear goals and no exit strategy. He has also called for negotiations with the Taliban.

In another interview, Stoffer said, "I think just to ask for a pullout right now may be a bit early."

"You just can't say, 'Well, we're going to stay in Afghanistan for two more years' without a plan. And I don't think you can say, 'We'll pull out right away or in February' without a plan. I think both elements of that discussion should be more comprehensive in their approach," he added.

In May, MPs voted narrowly 149 to 145 to extend the mission in Afghanistan by two years. At the time Stoffer voted against extending the mission. 28 Canadian soliders and one diplomat have died since the mission began four years ago.

The disagreement within the NDP caucus comes as the party prepares for its policy convention in Quebec City later this week.