Pulling Canadian soldiers from Afghanistan in 2011 will leave a gaping hole in security efforts and won’t necessarily ensure the end of combat operations, former chief of defence staff Gen. Rick Hillier says.

As MPs prepare to debate the future of the country’s military mission in Afghanistan, Hillier delivered some plain-spoken advice in an interview with the Toronto Star: Don’t trust the twisted rhetoric and outright lies that will surely be delivered by the Conservative government or opposition parties.

There will still be a need for security and counter-insurgency operations when Canada’s current mandate expires in 2011, he said. If experienced Canadian troops leave Kanadhar, some other nation, likely less familiar with the local terrain and power brokers, will have to do the job.

Hillier also said there’s also no need for Canadian troops, except in Kandahar or the northeast, and there’s no way Canada can carry out a goodwill mission without encountering frequent violence.

“If you stay in the south and try to do something like training, you will still be in combat. I don’t care what (political) staffers say in the media about how they can find a way to do it. You simply will not. You will be in combat,” Hillier said during a promotional interview for his new book, A Soldier First: Bullets, Bureaucrats and the Politics of War.

Living behind blast walls and trying to carry out aid and reconstruction projects are futile, and potentially dangerous in a country where NATO and insurgent forces are battling for the trust of the local population. “It would be like going to shore at Normandy on the sixth of June (1944) and driving around ..... sightseeing and leaving the enemy the opportunity, flexibility and initiative to attack you when they want,” Hillier said.

The advice from the most politically savvy soldier to lead the Canadian Forces in memory won’t be welcomed by MPs of any stripe: All are driving for a reduced presence in Afghanistan.