The reinforcement will consist of 200 troops as well as a squadron of heavy Leopard tanks to boost its 2,300-strong mission in Afghanistan, which has clashed heavily with Taliban forces in recent weeks, the defence department said on Friday.

"The enhancements are being sent in light of the changing tactical situation in the area," the ministry said.

Previously, senior Canadian officials acknowledged there were "serious and complex challenges to overcome" in the war-torn country.

"These resources provide greater mobility, protection of our troops, flexibility and precision firepower," said the ministry.

The extra forces comprise an infantry company from French-speaking Quebec - where opposition to the Canadian mission is at its most vocal - to protect a reconstruction team in the southern city of Kandahar.

"We have reached the stage where, with a small increase in personnel and equipment, we can dramatically multiply our opportunities to secure and stabilise the region," said General Rick Hillier, chief of defence staff.

Concerns grow

In the last three months alone, 16 Canadian soldiers have died in Afghanistan, prompting ever-louder calls for the troops to be brought back home.

Some critics say Canada is being sucked into a major war.

The government says Canada is doing more than its fair share in Afghanistan and wants other Nato nations to commit additional forces.

"There are serious and complex challenges to overcome before we can achieve our objectives in Afghanistan. They are extremely difficult to achieve in insecure environments," said an official at the department.

"The success of this integrated approach remains contingent on a robust and sustained international presence."