Canadian PM firm on 2011 troop exit

OTTAWA: Prime Minister Stephen Harper reaffirmed Friday that Canadian combat troops would leave Afghanistan in 2011, but vowed his country would then focus on boosting development and humanitarian efforts.

"Canada's military mission in Afghanistan will end in 2011," Harper told reporters. "And we will not be extending the military mission, period."

By the time the deadline is reached, "we will have been in Afghanistan longer than we will have been in both world wars combined," added the prime minister.

"I think it is time to transform that mission towards development and humanitarian efforts. That's what we're already doing."

Some 2,800 Canadian soldiers are currently routing insurgents in volatile Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Forces.

Canada has lost 131 soldiers to the war since it began its Afghanistan mission in 2002.

Harper's comments came a day after a working visit to Ottawa by Afghan Army chief General Bismillah Khan Mohammadi.