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Media coverage in Afghanistan 'unfortunate,' minister says

Donald Mcarthur, Ottawa Citizen, 31 Aug 06


KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - The security situation in southern Afghanistan will improve over the next year and Canada will pour "resources" into reconstruction efforts, Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor said here yesterday, as he also admonished reporters for focussing on Canadian casualties instead of good works projects.


Despite opinion polls showing wavering support for the mission in the face of increased violence that has seen eight Canadian soldiers killed since Aug. 3, Mr. O'Connor insisted the Canadian public was solidly behind the mission and understood its importance when a soldier asked about the political situation back home.


"We're here because the Afghans have asked us to be here, we're here because we're a G-8 country and we have responsibilities in the world to try and help other people and we're here for our own self-interest," Mr. O'Connor said after addressing troops with the reconstruction team at Camp Nathan Smith.


"We must remember that the terrorists came out of this country because it was unstable and attacked the twin towers, killing Canadians."


Mr. O'Connor said his government was going to focus on reconstruction and "put a lot of resources and effort" behind the provincial reconstruction team, but he made no new funding announcements and provided no specifics. He said it was unfortunate the media focussed on the bloody battle against insurgents and not the battle for the hearts and minds of ordinary Afghans.


"We certainly feel the loss of every soldier, but it's unfortunate that the information that flows out of this country is just related to that subject," he said. "I'd like to see more stories about what's happening in the country rather than just engagements."


Canadian troops have killed an Afghan police officer and a young Afghan boy in the past two weeks when, according to the military, they refused repeated warnings to stop their approach upon a Canadian security position. Mr. O'Connor dismissed suggestions those incidents are causing ordinary Afghans to begin resenting Canada's presence here.


"What the Afghan people want here is they want security and stability and that's what we're trying to give them," said Mr. O'Connor.

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