Canadian public opinion polls indicate a majority of Canadians favor pulling their troops out of Afghanistan when their current mission as part of NATO is scheduled to end in December 2011. However, a growing number, says defense analyst Steven Staples of the Rideau Institute in Ottawa, say the troops should come home right away.
But, Staples says “that’s not likely to happen” as the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper remains committed to deployment until the end of 2011. He says it is possible the troop commitment to Afghanistan may be reconfigured after that time.
Staples says there was an expectation that the popularity of President Barak Obama in Canada might lead to a renewed commitment to prolong the Canadian military presence in Afghanistan. However, he says that hasn’t happened. “The (polling) numbers have not moved really,” says Staples, “Actually, they’re moving in the opposite direction.”
There’s a sense, says the analyst, that the mission is really being dominated by the United States, that Canadian forces, numbering about 2,500, are being dwarfed by the growing size of the U.S. troop commitment, expected to reach 68,000 by year’s end.
Staples says Canadians remember that when they went into Afghanistan at the request of the United States, they moved to the more dangerous region of Kandahar to allow US troops to go to Iraq. Now, he says, those U.S. troops are returning and Canadians are hearing that their troops are worn out. Canadian forces have taken a large portion of the burden in Afghanistan and it’s time for someone else to take over. “If it’s President Obama,” he suggests Canadians believe, “so be it.”