Canadian senator laments leaving Afghanistan

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Speaking to about 200 people on hand at the Penrose House on Thursday for a Canada Day celebration, Canadian Sen. Pamela Wallin (pictured left) expressed dismay with the decision to end Canada's military participation in the Afghanistan conflict.

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"I hope we can find some flexibility in the Canadian approach," Wallin said. "Our job is not done. That debate continues at home. We do have to continue in some way to make our contribution."

A former journalist, Wallin serves on the Senate's National Security and Defence Committee, the Veterans Affairs subcommittee and the Special Committee on Anti-terrorism. She served as Consul General of Canada in New York from 2002 to 2006.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has declared any government commitment to Afghanistan after the current mission ends will be staffed by civilians focused on building up the country’s government and aiding its people, thestar.com reported earlier this year.

If Canada isn't willing to lend its military resources when asked by the United Nations, "I wonder where and when we will lend them," she said.

She said when the U.S. and Canada entered Afghanistan in 2001, 1,000 boys there attended school. Today, 7 million children, a third of them girls, attend.

"Canada through civilian and military effort has helped create a sense of hope," she said.

Wallin joked about Canada and the United States' relationship, saying, "Americans are our best friends whether we like it or not, and we're their best friends whether they know it or not."

Although the two nations are very different culturally and politically, she said they remain bound by trade — Canada does more trade with Home Depot's headquarters in Atlanta than it does with France — and providing security through the joint North American Aerospace Defense Command based in Colorado Springs.

The party, an annual event with a clear focus on the Canadian-U.S. relationship under NORAD, included remarks by Canadian Maj. Gen. Pete Forgues, NORAD's director of operations.

An array of local dignitaries were on hand, including Mayor Lionel Rivera, Vice Mayor Larry Small, El Pomar President Bill Hybl, El Paso County Commissioner Sallie Clark and newly arrived NORAD/Northern Command commander Adm. James Winnefeld. His predecessor, Gen. Gene Renuart, who has retired and lives here, also attended.

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