1) They want us there. In the country as a whole this is true, but in 4 provinces where the fighting is concentrated it is not. Over 2 thirds of Afghans in Kandahar province want us gone.
2) The Afghan army is making progress. Indeed they are. However three things need to be pointed out. One, the army is made up of a dispropriate number of ethnic minorities, e.g., Harara in the Kandahar region. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/12/08/081208fa_fact_wood Far from being a source of stability this can be source of instability. Two, the capability of the Taliban is growing faster than the effectiveness of the Afghan army. As one US marine was recently commented, "they fight like marines now". And of course they do; every technique that the US passes on to the Afghan army is passed on to the Taliban. Three, the army might be doing better, but the Afghan police force is still an unmediated disaster.
3) If Canada leaves, then Afghanistan risks again becoming home to Al Qaeda training bases. This is just silly. For starters, if Canada leaves, the US will still be there. For another 911 gave the US carte blanche to take out any Al Qaeada base in Afghanistan until the end of time. For Christ sakes, the US has no qualms about targeting Al Qaeda figures in Pakistan.
4) Canada being there makes us less likely to be attacked. Thank god we have moved beyond this little ditty. This talking point has always been the height of intellectual dishonsty To wit: When the would be Ontario bombers were arrested Andrew Coyne noted on the National that Al Qaeda had long listed Canada as a potential target, that no Western country is immune from attack, and that the arrests were yet further reason for pursuing a more muscular approach in Afghanistan. What Coyne failed to note however was that the would be bombers did not have any connection to Al Qaeda, according to the Crown the accused were motivated by the Afghan mission and the reason Al Qaeda has targeted Canada is because of our presence in Afghanistan. This is the Al Qaeda threat Coyne was referring to.
“What do your governments want from their alliance with America in attacking usin Afghanistan? I mention in particular Britain, France, Italy, Canada, Germanyand Australia.”
(Subsequently, Al Qaeda twice threatened Canada with terror acts because of Afghanistan. In one of those times, Al Qaeda’s second in command referred to Canada has “second rate crusaders”. http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/news/story.html?id=e9f20f44-ec19-470c-9ac3-6c79218d4d91 )
Only an ideologue would have the chutzpah to use Al Qaeda’s threat related to our presence in Afghanistan as proof that Al Qaeda will attack any western target, as if Switzerland and the US are equally likely targets, and that we should therefore step up operations in Afghanistan.
Of course, the threat the Afghan mission poises to Canada goes beyond the economics and loss of life. A terrorist attack, inspired by Canada 's presence in Afghanistan, might revitalize the Quebec’s separatist movement, especially if Quebec is the victim. Currently the Afghan mission is opposed by 70% of Quebecers. If Quebecers die as a result of us being there, the separatists will use it as a reason why Quebecers need their own country with its own foreign policy. Given what has transpired in Ontario, what happened in Spain and Britain, the chances of such an attack or not insignificant.
Finally, 20% of Canadians are born outside the country and Canada has the highest per capita immigration rate in the world. A terrorist attack has the potential to badly maul Canada's social fabric.