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Layton says calls for more troops a bad sign for Afghan mission

New Democrat Leader Jack Layton says calls for additional Canadian troops for Afghanistan are a sure sign the mission to combat the Taliban is in trouble.

Speaking to reporters during a break at an NDP caucus meeting in Montreal, Mr. Layton reiterated his belief Canada should pull its troops out of the strife-torn country.

"The call for more troops for the mission in the south shows that it's not succeeding, that it doesn't have clarity in its goals, that there's no exit strategy and that it's completely out of balance," Mr. Layton said during a break in an NDP caucus meeting.

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"More investment in military activity now would put it futher out of balance. What we need is a balanced approach that puts humanitarian aid, that puts reconstruction and defence into the context of a comprehensive peace process. That's clearly not happening."

He says the mission's goals are not clear, there is no exit strategy and more troops would just throw the mission further out of balance.

Mr. Layton drew fire last Friday when he said Canada should withdraw from southern Afghanistan and invite Taliban fighters to peace talks. In defending the statement, he said negotiation was better than warfare.

Then on Monday Mr. Layton stepped up that call, saying the Afghanistan mission was wrong for Canada, with no light at the end of the tunnel.

Today, Mr. Layton said the mission needed an approach that puts reconstruction, humanitarian aid and defence in the framework of a comprehensive peace process.

NATO's top commander has called on allied countries to send reinforcements to restive southern Afghanistan, saying the coming weeks could be decisive in the fight against the Taliban.

U.S. Gen. James Jones also commended Canada for its significant contribution to the Afghan mission, while criticizing other NATO countries that have done little for the war effort.

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Asked if Canada has been too generous, Mr. Layton said the NDP's position is that Canadian troops should be brought home.

"Our view is that it's time for Canada to initiate the process of withdrawing our troops and putting Canada in the position of helping to construct a new approach in Afghanistan and in the south of Afghanistan," he said.

Mr. Layton said the NDP supports Canadian troops.

"We believe that the most respectful way to deal with the situation affecting our troops is to consider very, very carefully what we ask them to do and whether what we ask them to do is going to have a productive, long-term result," he said.

"We've concluded the mission in the south of Afghanistan, the war being conducted there is not on a path that's going to lead to the results that are needed."

The NDP met in Montreal to prepare for a weekend convention in Quebec City. About 600 resolutions are being considered for debate but Mr. Layton guaranteed that one up for discussion will call for the abolition of the Senate.

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"It's an anachronism from times past," Mr. Layton said of the upper chamber.

With files from Canadian Press

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