Ottawa - Canada is unlikely to commit troops to the
French-led campaign against Islamist rebels in Mali because it is threatening
to become a counter-insurgency operation similar to those in Iraq and
Afghanistan, Foreign Minister John Baird said on Tuesday.
Last month Ottawa extended the loan of a C-17 military cargo
plane to the French operations in Mali until February 15, while making clear it
had no plans to contribute soldiers.
"I am very cautious about sending in potentially
thousands of Canadian troops to Malian soil ... to what is already is amounting
to a counter-insurgency. We're not at the drop of a hat going to get into
another Afghanistan," Baird told a parliamentary committee.
Canada's appetite for military intervention is low following
10 years of military involvement in Afghanistan, ending in 2011, during which
158 soldiers were killed. Canada stayed out of the US-led invasion of Iraq in
Baird also laughed off the suggestion that Canada could
eventually provide troops to serve as peacekeepers.
"On one side we have a military government that took
power in a coup last year and on the other side an al-Qaeda affiliate. I don't
think they're going to sign on for a peacekeeping mission," Baird said.
"It's very much going to be an insurgency on the ground
like we've seen in Iraq and like we've seen in Afghanistan."
Rather than sending in troops Canada could support West
African regional group Ecowas, the United Nations and Mali's neighbours, Baird
said. He did not give details.