By Shirlee Engel
OTTAWA — Most Canadians support Ottawa's plan to pull out of Afghanistan next year, according to an exclusive poll for Global News.
The Associated Press-GfK poll finds that only 38% of respondents support President Obama's decision to expand the war effort, lower than the 46% who said they did in March.
Only 19% believe the situation will improve in Afghanistan over the next year, while 29% think it will get worse. And 49% believe the conditions will remain the same.
Sixty-one per cent of respondents to the TV network's "Canada's Pulse" poll say all Canadian troops need to come home, while 28 per cent think Canada should leave some troops behind to train Afghan police and soldiers. Just 11 per cent want to extend the mission.
As Canada prepares for its 2011 exit, 38 per cent of those polled also say the 152 Canadian soldiers who died there did so in vain.
This saddens Tim Goddard, whose daughter Capt. Nichola Goddard, a combat engineer with the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, became Canada's first female combat death. She was killed in May 2006 during a battle with Taliban forces west of Kandahar.
But he agrees with the majority of those polled on one thing: "I would be very sad if the end of the combat mission was extended," he said. "Then I'd start asking questions about value and so on."
Tracking public opinion during the Afghan mission shows calls to bring the troops home have grown with the number of casualties — from 44 per cent in 2007, to 61 this fall. Experts say a lack of clarity from Ottawa contributes to the nation's war-weariness.
Canada sustained a much higher loss during the Second World War, noted David Bercuson, of the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary. He said the problem is Canadians are "really not sure why we're there anymore."
Gen. Walter Natynczyk, the chief of the defence staff, wasn't surprised by the results.
"If you had a poll in World War I, what would you think the outcome would be?" he asked. "The fact is war is awful."