(CNN) -- Canadian forces will remain in Afghanistan beyond February 2009 only if another NATO nation sends an additional 1,000 combat troops to Kandahar province -- where the troops are based, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Monday.
Canada's prime minister says he wants more NATO commitment before extending Canada's mission.
Most of the 2,500 Canadian troops in the country are in Kandahar as part of a NATO-led mission to stabilize Afghanistan. Their presence has sparked controversy in Canada, with some political parties calling for the troops to come home.
On Monday, the Canadian prime minister endorsed the recommendations of a panel he appointed to examine Canada's future in Afghanistan. The panel suggested that Canadian troops stay in Afghanistan only if another NATO nation dispatches an additional 1,000 troops to southern Afghanistan.
"If NATO can't come through with that help, then I think, quite frankly, NATO's own reputation and future will be in grave jeopardy," Harper said.
Harper, from the nation's Conservative Party, appointed former Liberal Party deputy prime minister, John Manley, to lead the Independent Panel on Canada's Future Role in Afghanistan.
The current Liberal leader, Stephan Dion, said he also supports the panel's recommendation, but his party wants a timeline for the withdrawal of Canadian troops -- something Harper opposes.
"You have two parties ... who do want to continue, to have a role for Canada past February 2009," Dion told reporters, "but there is a gulf of differences on how we see things."
Harper said he would consult with Dion on how to proceed.
"There has been no issue that has caused me as prime minister more headaches - and quite frankly more heartache - than this particular mission," he said. E-mail to a friend