They love us! Afghans really love us!

A recent CBC poll of Afghans suggests that fully 60 per cent of that nation’s people support the presence of foreign troops in their nation.

A recent CBC poll of Afghans suggests that fully 60 per cent of that nation’s people support the presence of foreign troops in their nation.

What a relief.

No, what a joke.

On Friday, the publicly funded broadcaster started covering the “tensions” in Afghanistan — wouldn’t want to call it a war — by opinion poll.

In doing so, it did itself and the nation a disservice.

The wrongheaded project started in mid-September.

The CBC teamed up with the Munk Centre, the Globe and Mail and La Presse to survey Afghan citizens about politics, national safety and the role of international forces.

The poll of less than 1,600 Afghans — a nation of 31 million — was conducted by Canada’s Environics, which partnered with the Afghan Centre for Socio-Economic and Opinion Research, a joint venture of US-based D3 Systems and Bulgarian BBSS-TNS.

In a stable society, polls are often dubious ventures — manipulations paid for by one political party or another to sway public opinion. The results are dependent on the questions and who is asked.

But Afghanistan?

It is a tribal nation beset by violence and war for decades.

It has a largely illiterate rural population ruled by warlords who often maintain control through intimidation.

The country lacks a functioning justice system and has a corrupt national government and police force.

Against this backdrop, the broadcaster asserts the poll is accurate to within 2.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

Who is the CBC trying to kid?

Such an environment is hardly the place to conduct an legitimate opinion poll.

In a blog explaining the project, CBC managing editor George Hoff suggested that if a subject refused to take the survey, the team moved on to a more amenable household.

Immediately, that skews the results — those willing to talk to Western pollsters are probably most supportive of the international forces in Afghanistan.

And it begs other questions: for instance, were the pollsters accompanied by armed security guards?

At best, such a poll borders on the useless. At worst, it represents national propaganda by the public broadcaster.

The poll results were released just three days after the opening of Parliament.

The Afghan mission was identified in the Harper government’s throne speech. It has now signaled its intention to keep the troops in the country until 2011.

And support for that mission is a polarizing issue in Canada — most want the soldiers home, according to Canadian polls.

Continuing the Afghan mission is the strongest possible impediment to a Conservative majority.

So how soothing it is to learn that half of the Afghan people support the country’s direction, according to the CBC.

As of last week, 708 soldiers have died in Afghanistan since 2001.

Of those, 71 were Canadian.

How reassuring learning, through a random poll of Afghans, that they haven’t died in vain. (RM)

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