Alberta premier cancels Afghan trip

A suicide attack Friday in Kabul, Afghanistan that killed 21 people, including two Canadians, forced Premier Alison Redford to cancel what was to have been a secret weekend trip to the war-torn country to visit Canadian troops.

Redford had finished a six-day trade mission to India and had two days of “private time” on her schedule before heading to a world economic forum in Switzerland on Monday. That time was to have been a two-day stopover in Kabul, kept off the itinerary for security reasons. Redford had her bags packed and was just a few hours away from flying into Kabul from India when she received word of the coordinated Taliban assault against a Kabul restaurant filled with foreigners and affluent Afghans. In what was the worst attack against foreign nationals since the Afghan conflict began in 2001, a suicide bomber blew himself up outside the restaurant while two gunmen opened fire inside.

“What a target, my God – on a Friday in a restaurant,” said a shaken Redford in a telephone interview. “I was very, very upset. For me it reminded me of the real issues that matter.”

And it was a reminder that for all the foreign money and lives spent helping Afghanistan, the country is still wracked by violence that on Friday targeted foreign nationals simply having dinner.

The Taliban immediately claimed responsibility, sending a message that the militants are still active even as the U.S.-led military coalition winds down its combat mission this year.

Among the dead were two Ottawa-area accountants, Martin Glazer, 43, and Peter McSheffrey, 49, in Kabul for a week doing nothing more threatening to the Taliban than assessing aid projects delivered by non-governmental organizations. After learning of the attack, Redford and her chief of staff, Farouk Adatia, conferred with Canada’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Deborah Lyons, and decided to cancel the trip, in part because of security concerns but also because Redford didn’t want to add to the burdens facing Canadian officials after the attack.