BRUSSELS, Jan. 30 (Xinhua) -- NATO wants the Canadian troops to stay in southern Afghanistan, a NATO spokesman said on Wednesday in reaction to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's threat to pull out troops in 2009.
Harper said earlier this week that his country would have to withdraw troops fighting in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar unless other NATO allies would provide 1,000 combat troops as well as equipment.
"NATO thinks Canada is doing a very important and valuable job in Kandahar. We hope Canada will find a way to extend the mission," NATO spokesman James Appathurai told reporters in Brussels.
Harper's efforts to work with allies with the support of NATO to find a way to extend the mission will be welcomed by NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and the allies, he said.
No NATO country has left the Afghan mission, the spokesman added.
Appathurai said the issue would come up at an informal defense ministers' meeting of the alliance in Vilnius, Lithuania, early next month.
NATO wants to see more troops and more air transport capabilities in Afghanistan and has been working continuously with allies to provide them, he said.
It is up to the Canadian government and parliament to decide on the extension, he said.
De Hoop Scheffer also said on Wednesday that he is waiting for a decision by the Canadian side. "Let's wait for the (Canadian) parliamentary debate, and then we will certainly have bridges to cross, which we will certainly cross," he told reporters.
Troops from Canada, Britain, the Netherlands and the United States are fighting in the volatile south of Afghanistan. The Dutch parliament has approved an extension of the Dutch mission for two years.
The Pentagon has recently decided to send 2,200 Marines to southern Afghanistan on temporary basis in order to suppress a possible spring offensive of the Taliban. Another 1,000 will be deployed to help train the Afghan army.
The U.S. Marines would have been withdrawn before the expiry of the Canadian mission in 2009.