Canada urging tiny Mideast country to send forces to Afghanistan

The United Arab Emirates may send troops to work alongside Canadians in southern Afghanistan, sources say.


The move, which could come this fall, would mark a military and diplomatic coup for Canada, which had been urging the tiny Arab nation to contribute soldiers and equipment to the mission to put a “Muslim face” on the international coalition.


And it comes at a time when Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been pressing other nations to contribute more to help stabilize the troubled nation.


Canadian diplomats and defence officials made overtures to the U.A.E. in January to get involved in the mission.

Now a tentative plan is being discussed for the deployment of a small — but highly symbolic —U.A.E. force to serve under the leadership of Canadian officials.

Officials at the U.A.E. embassy in Ottawa declined to comment. However, a government source confirmed that the federal department is aware that a possible deployment is in the works by the small Arab nation, located along the southern shores of the Persian Gulf.

According to a defence department briefing note released in the spring, U.A.E. signalled that it was interested in contributing a “small tactical unit.”

The contribution could include four LeClerc main battle tanks, two platoons of armoured reconnaissance vehicles, two self-propelled 155-mm guns and a detachment of unmanned aerial vehicles, according to the note, released under access to information.

“The U.A.E. is capable of bringing considerable financial support to development projects and would provide a Muslim face to International Security Assistance Force operations, providing a counterpoint to insurgent rhetoric,” it said.

Alan Pellerin, of the Conference of Defence Associations, an Ottawa-based defence lobby group, said he has heard “speculation” that Middle East nations may contribute to the mission.

“Nobody wants to talk about it until these countries announce it themselves,” he said yesterday.

skepticism remains

  • Some experts believe it is unlikely the U.A.E. will dispatch troops, given that it has preferred to downplay its connections to the Afghan mission so far. It has pressed the Canadian government not to officially confirm that Minhad air base near Dubai is the location of “Camp Mirage,” the secretive air base that serves as a transit hub for Canadian troops and equipment headed in and out of Kandahar.