The survey by Decima Research, released Monday to The Canadian Press, found that two-thirds of respondents want Canadian troops to come home when the current mandate from Parliament expires in February 2009.
Only 26 per cent of respondents believed the military mission should be extended "if that is necessary to complete our goals there."
The results of the poll, conducted May 31 to June 4, were released as Prime Minister Stephen Harper discussed an extension to the mission with his Dutch counterpart in Ottawa.
Harper has repeatedly hinted that Canadian troops may have to stay on in Afghanistan's troubled southern provinces beyond February 2009 in order to ensure stability...
A healthy plurality of respondents felt the mission was helping to rebuild Afghanistan for its people and fostering democracy. But respondents were more skeptical about the mission's goal of reducing the threat of global terrorism, with more people saying there's been insufficient progress than sufficient progress.
The key line:
Yet Anderson says the broad sentiment does not appear to be for an immediate military withdrawal, and Canadian reticence about an extension could change as the deadline approaches and the consequences of leaving become clearer.
Last weekend, Angus Reid also released a Afghanistan poll, with showed a majority favored withdrawal before 2009. That polling tended to favor the NDP position of immediate withdrawal. This poll seems to show a preference for the Liberal position of honoring our international commitment, without an open-ended commitment.
The problem with both polls, they only ask one "anti-war" option, which tends to lump everyone into one category. At the time of the Angus Reid poll, I considered that a substantial portion supported the early withdrawal option, because it was the only alternative. The same logic could apply to this finding, so it is hard to say which party has adopted the true sentiment of Canadians. What we do see clearly, no one supports Harper's musings about an extension.
It would be nice to see more detail in the questions. Dion recently said Liberals would consider maintaining a Canadian contingent beyond 2009, but in an entirely different capacity. Rotation to more stable areas and/or further re-construction and training. I would like to see if there is any appetite for that position, because I have a feeling that will be the ultimate outcome once we reach 2009. The only hint, in both polls, Canadians believe we are helping Afghans by our presence, although they doubt the "war on terror" angle. A extended mission, in a more traditional Canadian role, with heavy emphasis on aid might just fly with Canadians in the end.