Canadian soldiers arrive at Kandahar airfield

Sunday, February 3rd 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) _ The first group of Canadian infantry assigned to guard suspected al-Qaida and Taliban fighters arrived before dawn Sunday at the Kandahar airfield.

The 75 troops are part of a 750-strong contingent who will work alongside U.S. Army soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division. They also could engage in combat or humanitarian missions.

``This is beautiful,'' Warrant Officer Eric Gebhardt said of the brown desert landscape with mountains in the distance.

Gebhardt said the near-freezing temperature seemed warm compared with the 40 below zero temperature the troops trained in.

Warrant Officer Mike Robitaille, 32, said he believes the Canadian and U.S. soldiers have similar training and can complement each other.

``We can work together to achieve the same objective,'' Robitaille said.

The Canadian soldiers are from the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry based in Edmonton and Winnipeg. They are expected to bring 12-14 light armored reconnaissance vehicles.

Canada also plans to send communications staff, medical personnel and engineers to help detonate land mines as part of what it calls Operation Apollo.

They join an unknown number of Canadian special forces soldiers who have been in Afghanistan for months.