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Opposition parties were clamouring Monday for the Harper government to set a firm deadline for Canadian troops to be withdrawn from Afghanistan,

It was an understandable move given the deaths of eight soldiers last week alone and indications the Conservatives already are planning to extend the mission beyond its current February, 2009 mandate.

It also was a wrong one.

Whether Canada should have gotten involved in Afghanistan in the first place will be debated long after the troops finally do come home for good. But whether you support that initial decision or not (which was made by the Liberals, by the way), the bottom line is we are there and our fellow citizens are dying for the cause.

This certainly isn’t the time to give the Taliban any clues—let alone an actual date—as to when we’re going to pull out.

Canada obviously has neither the manpower nor resources to maintain a military presence in Afghanistan in perpetuity. On the other hand, surely no one believes—despite the excellent progress our troops have made to date—that all the country’s woes will be miraculously solved in the next 21 months.

Frankly, the job can’t be left half-done. Families have sacrificed far too much already to allow the Taliban to simply return to power after we’ve gone.

The decision on whether to extend the Afghan mission beyond February, 2009 is a debate—and vote in Parliament—for a later date. In the meantime, talk of setting deadlines does more harm than good.

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