What is less clear is how many of them would be willing to come back if the mission is extended.
In its recent throne speech, the Conservative government says Canada should stay involved in Afghanistan until at least 2011.
Ankle-deep in the dust of one of Canada's forward operating bases in Kandahar province, a 17-year veteran of the Canadian Forces says he'll leave the army first.
It's not the insufferable heat, the time away from his family back at home or even the danger that has convinced him.
"Things won't change," says the soldier who has served previously in Bosnia and Haiti. He does not want to be identified.
Citing the corruption in government and the Afghan national police, and the fierce tribal rivalries that divide the country, he believes Afghanistan will fall back into chaos and civil war whether Canada leaves in 18 months, four years or a decade from now.
"I won't come back here," he says.
Revealing and trumps the "they believe in the mission" line usually spun by military PR people and HarperCons. It also pretty much echoes Gwynne Dyer's take (not to mention anyone else who's glanced at Afghan history):
Until you get to the money quote at the end:The current fighting in the south, the Pashtun heartland, which is
causing a steady dribble of American, British and Canadian casualties, will
continue until the Western countries pull out. (Most other NATO members
sent their troops to various parts of northern Afghanistan, where
non-Pashtun warlords rule non-Pashtun populations and nobody dares attack
the foreigners.) Then, after the foreigners are gone, the Afghans will make
the traditional inter-ethnic deals and something like peace will return.
A U.S. marine making a pit stop at a Canadian base brings a totally different perspective.
"The problem with the Canadians is that they always have to be worried about what people think at home," he says.
"When the Canadians are attacked they worry about civilian casualties. When we're attacked, we hunt them down and kill them."
So much for hearts and minds. Perhaps the Marine in question should pay attention to the Environics poll, suggesting, in reference to why some Afghans are critical of the foreign troops:
The minority critical of the mission emphasize the killing of innocent people and searching houses without permission.
Perhaps even more interesting is the number of sampled Afghans, who according to the same poll, favour negotiation with the Taleban - again confirm Dyer's thinking:
In spite of the widespread negative feelings about the Taliban, a strong desire for peace and stability, a strong majority (74%) of Afghans nationwide (and 85% in Kandahar) to support negotiations between the Karzi government and the Taliban. Beyond negotiations, there is also modest majority support for the idea of a coalition agreement in which the Karzi government shares power with the Taliban. Just over half strongly (25%) or somewhat (29%) support such a coalition, compared with one-third (33%) who oppose it
This is fundmentally a war between the US/NATO and a third and fourth country based nonstate militia that the majority of people in whose name NATO soldiers fight and die, would rather negotiate with. Why do we continue?