A CBC online poll is asking “Should Canadian combat forces remain in Afghanistan past 2011?” At the moment, 74 per cent have answered “No.” While encouraging, this is somewhat higher than what we’ve seen in more scientific polls, and not likely indicative of Canadian public opinion.
According to the most recent Angus Reid poll (Feb. 24, 2010) “47 per cent of respondents support the military operation involving Canadian soldiers, while 49 per cent oppose it.” This appears to indicate a softening of Canadian opposition to the war because, as recently as last October, only 37 per cent supported Canada’s combat role while 56 per cent opposed it, once again, according to Angus Reid.
Stephen Harper continues to insist that Canada’s combat days in Afghanistan will end next year. However, we would be naive if we thought that Canada will cease its meddling in Afghanistan or that it intends to drop its support for the corrupt Karzai regime.
In this, Harper would have the support of Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, who recently said “We have invested massively in Afghanistan. We have left brave men and women behind. We think that there is a justification for some continued mission in Afghanistan after 2011.”
Reporting on a Harris-Decima poll published last October, the Canadian Press said that “about half of Canadians are comfortable with the idea of the country remaining involved in Afghanistan post-2011, but in a civilian role and not with combat troops.”
The Globe and Mail has called for Canada to accept NATO’s expected request for “a low-risk training role in Kabul that appears tailor-made for Canada.” Despite Harper’s assurances of a troop withdrawal, no such direction has been given to Canada’s Provincial Reconstruction Teams, which will need protection. Furthermore, no one has explained why Canada plans to send surveillance aircraft to Afghanistan in June 2011 when it has announced that Canada’s troops will pull out by July 2011.
So, don’t be surprised if we learn that Canadian humanitarian aid will require some Canadian troops to provide security. Don’t be amazed if we continue to train Afghan troops or police. Don’t be fooled into believing that any of these activities can be carried out peacefully. The entire country is a war zone and to believe that Canada can deliver programs anywhere in that country without contributing to the ongoing war and occupation is nonsense.
Harper’s pledge to withdraw our troops next year notwithstanding, this is not the time for Canadians who oppose this war to rest. Too many Canadians believe we can play a positive role in Afghanistan while it is occupied by NATO and governed by a ruthless, corrupt drugocracy. We have to continue to educate and mobilize.