Strategy? What strategy?

The United States has not yet settled on the best strategy for the ongoing war in Afghanistan, and won’t commit to sending more troops until it does, President Barack Obama said Wednesday after meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

A man wearing a bigfoot costume and a Stephen Harper mask protests with a man wearing a Barack Obama mask in Washington

A man wearing a bigfoot costume and a Stephen Harper mask protests with a man wearing a Barack Obama mask in Washington

WASHINGTON — The United States has not yet settled on the best strategy for the ongoing war in Afghanistan, and won’t commit to sending more troops until it does, President Barack Obama said Wednesday after meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The two leaders met in the Oval Office for more than an hour, touching on a variety of issues that included trade irritants, energy and the continuing Afghan mission, in which Canada is a major partner.

But it was Obama’s stark admission about the U.S. role in Afghanistan — the original goal of the mission is all but a distant memory, thanks in part to the lack of a clear course of action, he indicated — that commanded the most attention.

“We have lacked as clear of a strategy and a mission as is necessary in order to meet our overriding objective, which is to dismantle and disrupt and destroy al-Qaida,” Obama said.

A recent influx of American troops and resources was intended primarily to ease immediate pressure on NATO allies like Canada and facilitate the Afghan elections, which took place Aug. 20 but remain shrouded by allegations of widespread fraud.

“There is no immediate decision pending on resources, because one of the things I’m absolutely clear about is you have to get the strategy right and then make determinations about resources,” he said.

“You don’t make determinations about sending young men and women into battle without having absolute clarity about what the strategy is going to be.”

The U.S. presence is a vital factor as Canada nears the self-imposed 2011 deadline for its own military deployment in Afghanistan — a deadline Harper was quick to point out will not result in an immediate end to Canada’s presence in the country.

“Canada is not leaving Afghanistan,” Harper said.

“Canada will be transitioning from a predominantly military mission into a mission that would be a civilian, humanitarian development mission after 2011.

“Whatever we and NATO and our UN allies are doing, that we make sure that eventually this country can stand on its own two feet, particularly on the security side.”

Obama and Harper also discussed the economy, the flow of energy between the two countries and the various trade “irritants” that have cropped up in the wake of the global economic meltdown.

One irritant in particular — a U.S. policy of enforcing restrictions on foreign charter flights that effectively prevent Canadian sports teams from visiting more than one American city before returning home — appeared to be close to being resolved.

Harper referred to the president as “Barack” when he mentioned that a preliminary agreement had been reached between Air Canada and the U.S. Department of Transportation to ease the restriction, which the carrier had assailed as unfair.

When the conversation turned to the Canadian perception of protectionist “Buy American” policies in the U.S., Obama was quick to suggest the threat has been overblown by America’s trading partners.

Trade between the U.S. and Canada remains robust, and there’s no reason to think there’s a major conflict brewing, he said.

“I’m glad to hear that Canadians see the recovery package as significant,” said Obama, who noted that the efforts to breathe life into the U.S. economy were compliant with World Trade Organization restrictions.

“These are legitimate issues that have to be raised, but on the overall scale of our trade relationship, these shouldn’t be considered the dominant (issue),” he said.

“That doesn’t mean they’re not a source of irritation between the United States and Canada.”

Obama also pointed out that Harper has been persistent in making an issue out of the perceived slight. “He’s been on the job on this issue.”

The two leaders will next see each other at the two-day G20 summit in Pittsburgh, which gets underway Sept. 24.

Outside the White House, a handful of protesters were on hand to complain about so-called “dirty oil” from Canada’s tarsands; earlier Wednesday, protesters dressed in seal costumes stained with red paint staged an event outside the Canadian Embassy.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer Rebels forward Jayden Grubbe is one of three Rebels on the NHL Central Scouting players to watch list for the 2021 NHL Draft. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Rebels seek consistency ahead of matchup with Hitmen

The Red Deer Rebels had to deal with a pang of regret… Continue reading

Quinn Mason died from an opioid overdose at the age of 23 in June 2020. (Contributed photo)
Central Alberta mother whose son died from overdose advocates for ‘change’

It’s been about nine months since her son died from an overdose,… Continue reading

Health Minister Tyler Shandro said Thursday that the province was ready to move forward with Phase 2A and B in the coming weeks. (Photo by Paul Taillon/Office of the Premier)
Majority of Albertans to receive first shot before June 30: Shandro

Shandro says all Albertans should be offered the COVID-19 vaccine by June 30

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw acknowledged that Friday would be one year since the first case of COVID-19 was identified in the province. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Three more Red Deer COVID-19 deaths, 331 active cases in Alberta

Red Deer is down to 362 active cases of the virus

Alberta’s Jobs, Economy and Innovation Minister Doug Schweitzer spoke on Thursday by webinar to Red Deer Chamber of Commerce members. (Screenshot by Advocate staff).
Alberta’s economic diversification is already underway, says Jobs Minister

From the geothermal to the TV industry, new jobs will be created, said Doug Schweitzer

Bryson, six, and Mara, eight, play with puppies from Dogs With Wings Saturday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
WATCH: Dogs With Wings introduces Red Deer program

A program that trains puppies to be certified service, autism, facility and… Continue reading

Quebec Premier François Legault chairs a virtual news conference Thursday, March 4, 2021 in Montreal. The premiers from the left are: John Horgan, B.C.; Jason Kenney, Alberta; Scott Moe, Saskatchewan; Legault, Quebec; Brian Pallister, Manitoba; Doug Ford, Ontario; and Blaine Higgs, New Brunswick. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Premiers reiterate demand for $28-billion increase in health transfers from Ottawa

Premiers reiterate demand for $28-billion increase in health transfers from Ottawa

The Edmonton Law Courts building is shown on Wednesday, July 8, 2020. An Alberta pastor accused of holding Sunday services that violated COVID-19 rules is appealing his bail conditions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Jailed Alberta pastor should be able to lead services until his trial: lawyer

Jailed Alberta pastor should be able to lead services until his trial: lawyer

Seniors arrive for their COVID-19 vaccination at a clinic in Olympic Stadium in Montreal on March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Premiers blame Ottawa for delayed COVID-19 shots; Ontario pharmacies to offer jabs

Premiers blame Ottawa for delayed COVID-19 shots; Ontario pharmacies to offer jabs

Actors, clockwise from left, Luke Bilyk, Aislinn Paul, Alex Steeler, Melinda Shankar, Annie Clark, Jordan Todosey, Jahmil French and Munro Chambers from "Degrassi: The Next Generation," are shown at a screening event, Saturday, Feb. 18, 2012, at the Wellmont Theater in Montclair, N.J. Friends of French say he was a gifted 'true artist' who 'wanted to be great'THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP Photo/StarPix, Dave Allocca
Friends of Jahmil French say he was a gifted ‘true artist’ who ‘wanted to be great’

Friends of Jahmil French say he was a gifted ‘true artist’ who ‘wanted to be great’

FILE - In this Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, file photo, rioters storm the Capitol, in Washington. At least 10 Ohioans have been charged in connection with the deadly insurrection at the U.S Capitol after being identified through social media and surveillance footage to the FBI. The group includes people linked to the Oath Keepers militia group who have been indicted on charges that they planned and coordinated with one another in the attack. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)
Capitol Police chief appeals for National Guard to stay

Capitol Police chief appeals for National Guard to stay

People gather on high ground and check for any sign of a tsunami near Whangarei, New Zealand, Friday, March 5, 2021. A powerful magnitude 8.1 earthquake struck in the ocean off the coast of New Zealand prompting thousands of people to evacuate and triggering tsunami warnings across the South Pacific. (Karena Cooper/New Zealand Herald via AP)
Powerful quake hits off New Zealand, prompting evacuations

Powerful quake hits off New Zealand, prompting evacuations

FILE - In this Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020 file photo, students discard food at the end of their lunch period as part of a lunch waste composting program at an elementary school in Connecticut. A United Nations report released on Thursday, March 4, 2021 estimates 17% of the food produced globally each year is wasted. That amounts to 931 million tons of food, or about double what researchers believed was being wasted a decade ago. And most of the waste — or 61% — happens in households, while food service accounts for 26% and retailers account for 13%. (Dave Zajac/Record-Journal via AP)
7% of food production globally wasted, UN report estimates

7% of food production globally wasted, UN report estimates

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wedneday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Efficacy figures of COVID-19 vaccines don’t tell the whole story: experts

Efficacy figures of COVID-19 vaccines don’t tell the whole story: experts

Most Read