Canadians balk at extending Afghanistan mission
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper invoked Canada's "international responsibility" to resolve the conflict, but polls show concern for casualties is taking a toll on support at home.
As the Canadian prime minister called Wednesday for continued support of the nation's military mission in Afghanistan, new polls indicate that Canadians may be losing faith. Citizens feel their commitment to Afghanistan is "disproportionate." At the same time, a new report commissioned by the British House of Commons has echoed Canadians' complaints and called for North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries to commit more troops to the restive nation.Skip to next paragraph
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A new poll finds that Canadians would be more likely to support the Afghan mission if their forces were less involved in combat operations and focused more on humanitarian efforts. Sixty-five percent of Canadians see the role of their military operations overseas as peacekeeping, not enforcing peace, reports the Globe and Mail. The poll – conducted by the Strategic Counsel, a market-research team, for the Globe and Mail – indicated that 81 percent of Canadians think one of the most important factors in considering extending their military commitment in Afghanistan is the rights of women and children. Sixty-eight percent listed preventing a terrorist attack as another important factor.
"There's resonance with our own vulnerability – the kind of arguments that were used with the original deployment," [Peter Donolo, a partner with the Strategic Counsel] said. "But what's interesting is that what doesn't [have resonance] is the reputational stuff – that it will hurt our international legitimacy or reputation."
That means that Mr. Harper's argument of a year ago – that Canadians don't "cut and run" – probably won't sell. The poll finds that 59 per cent of Canadians oppose sending troops to Afghanistan, up four percentage points from May.
Presently Canada has 2,500 troops stationed in Afghanistan, predominantly in the southern region of Kandahar. Canadians have complained that they are doing a "disproportionate" share of the fighting compared with other NATO countries, reports Reuters. To date, Canada has lost 66 soldiers in Afghanistan.
On Sunday, an Ipsos-Reid poll for the CanWest chain of newspapers showed that support for the mission had slipped to 50 percent from a high of 57 percent at the end of 2006.
The casualties, which last year were the highest per capita of any NATO country, have been taking a toll on support of the war for months now, reported The Christian Science Monitor last November.