Ottawa, Ontario

Prime Minister Stephen Harper today announced the creation of the Independent Panel on Canada’s Future Role in Afghanistan. The panel’s role will be to advise Parliament on options for the mission after the current mandate ends in February, 2009.

“I am pleased to announce the formation of an independent panel of eminent Canadians who will consider our options and provide expert non-partisan advice that will help parliamentarians make our decision,” said the Prime Minister.

Chaired by former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs John Manley, the panel will examine four main options, while not excluding others:

1. Continue training the Afghan army and police so Canada can begin withdrawing its forces in February 2009;

2. Focus on reconstruction and have forces from another country take over security in Kandahar;

3. Shift Canadian security and reconstruction effort to another region in Afghanistan;

4. Withdraw all Canadian military except a minimal force to protect aid workers and diplomats.

The panel, which is to report to the Prime Minister and the Canadian public at the end of January 2008, is expected to conduct its deliberations while keeping in mind the sacrifices Canadians have made to date in Afghanistan, the potential for deterioration in security and development, Canada’s obligations to NATO and the United Nations, and the implications for Canada’s international reputation.

In addition to Mr. Manley, the panel includes former federal Cabinet Minister Jake Epp, former Clerk of the Privy Council Paul Tellier, former Canadian Ambassador to the United States Derek Burney, and Pamela Wallin, former Canadian Consul General in New York City.

“These individuals represent a wealth of experience in foreign affairs and each one of them has demonstrated their commitment to Canada through years of public service,” said Prime Minister Harper. “I have no doubt they will examine the issues honestly, fairly, and expertly, and offer wise, impartial counsel that will help Parliamentarians and all Canadians choose the right course for Canada in Afghanistan.”