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With mission over, time to consider future

What will Canada's role be in future conflicts, and how closely should we ally ourselves with U.S. policy decisions?

Canada's war in Afghanistan - the "armed conflict" that no politician or general wanted to label a war - came to an end last week with the transfer of battle command to U.S. units at Ma'sum Ghar.

Ma'sum Ghar was a major Canadian base subject to never-ending mortar attacks and is now a compound for Afghan National Army troops.

Almost all of its Canadian troops are gone, leaving only a handful to assist U.S. forces acclimating to their role in western Kandahar.

Canadian soldiers and support staff will conduct a training mission in Afghanistan until 2014 but will not perform in a combat role.

Canada's exit date from Afghanistan was determined by Parliament three years ago, a decision that caused several European countries to reassess their own contribution to so-called "peacekeeping" roles.

As last week's transfer was effected at Ma'sum Ghar, Maclean's posted an interview with Prime Minister Stephen Harper in which he says the ability of the United States to protect Canada's interests is diminishing and "we have to be prepared to contribute more."

There are, of course, many ways to provide a "contribution." But not if it is with the lives of young Canadians like the 157 who died in a shapeless and confusing endeavour with no clear and sustainable military objective.

Our soldiers in Afghanistan were, and are, a credit to our nation.

They have not questioned their role. That is our job. Collectively this nation must determine whether U.S. foreign policy is Canadian foreign policy.