MASUMGHAR, AFGHANISTAN - In the wind-scoured high desert that was once the heartland of the Taliban movement, the will and determination of a little-heralded American ally have been tested.

For the past six months, the task of confronting insurgents in volatile Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan has largely fallen to Canada, whose troops have participated in myriad peacekeeping missions in recent years but had not seen high-intensity combat since the Korean War.

Although its nearly 3,000 troops account for less than 10 percent of the allied forces in Afghanistan, Canada absorbed nearly 20 percent of the coalition's combat deaths last year, losing...

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