At the moment there are few if any arguments that stand up as justification for remaining in Afghanistan, and although many causes are given, they are all subordinate to the rhetoric of what is essentially a U.S. led occupation.
Democracy became the main battle cry once the original search for bin Laden failed. Yet democracy in a country that has been war torn for half a century and centuries before that by occupying armies, is tribal in nature. It had a system of checks and counterbalances within that structure, including the now western accepted idea of a loya jirga, or grand council of tribal leaders. The closest Afghanistan came to true democracy was before the Soviet invasion, when a somewhat popular (emphasis on somewhat) socialist government granted full women's rights, supported education for all, provided social services, and allowed democratic voting. Democracy as known in western countries will not be possible in a war torn occupied tribal region.
Okay, so we are there for stability and reconstruction – except that the main destabilizing factor is not the Taliban but the NATO and U.S. occupiers. The majority of Afghanis see the occupying forces of NATO, including Canada paramount among them, as being the cause of many of their problems, as any occupying force is justifiably accused. Reconstruction of minimalist infrastructure will not convert the Afghanis to accepting occupation.
The Taliban are a group of insurgents, mainly Pashtun in origin from the southern regions of which Kandahar, where Canadian forces are centred, is the main centre. They become "terrorists" to western eyes because they have attacked western forces, killing a proportionally good number of Canadians along the way. They are not a monolithic group, and activities that range from pure war lordism for power through to drug smuggling are all carried out by tribal leaders that are grouped ignorantly under the overall name of the Taliban. Certainly the Taliban are no angels, but they are ethnic Afghanis and have not attacked any foreign countries. As time moves forward and military pressure increases, it is only natural that the Taliban will increase their intensity towards Canadian forces, learning from other groups how to build and use better explosives and tactics.
Al-Qaeda is correctly classified as a terrorist group, but again they originally had little to do with the U.S. other than to be funded by them through the Pakistani SIS in order to defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan. The same Soviets, now simply Russians, have again become power players in Northern Afghanistan with some of the Northern Alliance tribes, and are considered as being part of the power behind Karzai's inefficient government – inefficient at least for the U.S. Originally, al-Qaeda were mainly interested in Kashmir and Chechnya, and only came to prominence when the U.S. labeled them as the main culprits in 9/11. Now, as the occupation intensifies as it tries to counter the counter-insurgency, al-Qaeda, the Taliban, the various war lords and smugglers are inter-connecting their networks and drawing the U.S. into a wider insurgency in Pakistan, a nuclear armed economically and politically fragile state.
These are the grand parameters of the war in Afghanistan. Smaller issues such as women's rights and drug problems are also argued by Canadian politicians and media. Certainly the Taliban treat women as second class citizens, but the current group of war lords and drug lords are not much different. Within the overall context, helping women is simply a non-starter until all the rest of the lies around the U.S. occupation are sorted out. Drug problems followed the U.S into Southeast Asia and the same pattern is repeating in the Middle East.
There is no oil in Afghanistan, but it does have significant natural gas deposits in the northern regions and is a crucial pipeline trans-shipment route if the U.S. wants to avoid both Iran and Russia for its supplies.
The Liberals brought this mess upon the Canadian forces, who are doing what they can under false pretences for a foreign occupying force. The Conservatives are prolonging the agony by maintaining the forces there, with Liberal approval, until 2011, another two years of wasting valuable Canadian lives. Bring the troops home.