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Support For War In Afghanistan Hits All-Time Low

After a two month period that saw riots after American forces inadvertently burned copies of the Koran that resulted in the deaths of several Americans, and an apparent massacre of 17 Afghans by an American service member, support for the war in Afghanistan has hit an all-time low:

WASHINGTON — After a series of violent episodes and setbacks, support for the war in Afghanistan has dropped sharply among both Republicans and Democrats, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

The survey found that more than two-thirds of those polled — 69 percent — thought that the United States should not be at war in Afghanistan. Just four months ago, 53 percent said that Americans should no longer be fighting in the conflict, more than a decade old.

The increased disillusionment was even more pronounced when respondents were asked their impressions of how the war was going. The poll found that 68 percent thought the fighting was going “somewhat badly” or “very badly,” compared with 42 percent who had those impressions in November.

The latest poll was conducted by telephone from March 21 to 25 with 986 adults nationwide. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

The Times/CBS News poll was consistent with other surveys this month that showed a drop in support for the war. In a Washington Post/ABC News poll, 60 percent of respondents said the war in Afghanistan had not been worth the fighting, while 57 percent in a Pew Research Center poll said that the United States should bring home American troops as soon as possible. In a Gallup/USA Today poll, 50 percent of respondents said the United States should speed up the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Negative impressions of the war have grown among Republicans as well as Democrats, according to the Times/CBS News poll. Among Republicans, 60 percent said the war was going somewhat or very badly, compared with 40 percent in November. Among Democrats, 68 percent said the war was going somewhat or very badly, compared with 38 percent in November. But the poll found that Republicans were more likely to want to stay in Afghanistan for as long as it would take to stabilize the situation: 3 in 10 said the United States should stay, compared with 2 in 10 independents and 1 in 10 Democrats.

Republicans themselves are divided, however, over when to leave, with a plurality, 40 percent, saying the United States should withdraw earlier than the end of 2014, when under an agreement with the Afghan government all American troops are to be out of the country.

This isn’t entirely surprising. In the past month, we’ve seen polls from ABC News and Rasmussen that say essentially the same thing and previous polling on this topic has shown public disdain for the war increasing steadily to the point where it’s unlikely that we’ll ever bounce back from this number. At this point, we seem to be on an inexorable path to withdrawal regardless of who wins in November. Not just because the American people don’t want it, but because it’s becoming eminently clear that the Afghans don’t want it either and that a continued presence in the nation simply isn’t in our national interests anymore.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Dave Schuler says:

    Assuming that the conviction that the president expressed during the campaign that our invading Afghanistan was the right thing to do was sincere, it seems increasingly clear that crafting a policy that would allow longterm U. S. involvement, including popular support for such an involvement, would have been more prudent than “doubling down” has been.

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  2. @ Dave Schuler:

    This was certainly an appealing argument to those of us who opposed the war in Iraq but supported the (initial) mission in Afghanistan. In retrospect I think it was mistaken because candidate Obama (and the Bush Administration by that point) was never clear about what our mission in Afghanistan was. Was it to root out al Qaeda and its supporters, or rebuild Afghanistan?

    When he became President, Barack Obama was given two options. One was the “over-the-horizon” counter-terrorism strategy advocated by, among others, Joe Biden. The other was a counter-insurgency strategy that required an Iraq-style troop surge. In retrospect I think he may have made the wrong choice.

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  3. Hey Norm says:

    @ Doug…
    Your conclusion that Obama made the wrong choice assumes, based on nothing really, that there was a correct choice. He was left with a no good choices.
    In October of ’01 when we went in we should have leveled the place…taken out Bin Laden at Tora-Bora in December of ’01…and gotten the fu** out. Period. End of story.
    Everything else since 12/01 has been a waste of blood and treasure.

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  4. @Hey Norm:

    I’d suggest you go back to the period when the new strategy was being debated, and in 2010, and read what James Joyner and Dave Schuler were writing about Afghanistan here. The President made a choice and a commitment that he didn’t have to make.

    As for the Tora Bora argument, there have been several different versions of the story of that battle that seem to make clear that “taking out ” bin Laden was never as easy a prospect as it seemed to be in retrospect, not to mention the fact that there’s still some doubt about whether he was ever really there or whether he had left before the major battle had even started. I’d also submit that even if Tora Bora had been a compelete success, the compete immediate withdrawal you envision would not have been possible because, at that point, the rest of the country was far from pacified and far from clear of al Qaeda elements and supporters.

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  5. Hey Norm says:

    @ Doug…
    A choice he didn’t have to make? The Afghan war was 8 years old when he took over. Choices that should have been made almost a decade earlier had to be made. If those choices had been easy…Bush probably could have made them. But they weren’t….so he went to Iraq instead. Someone had to make the tough decisions. When you make tough decisions you risk being wrong. I never liked the decision. But I do admire anyone with the sack to make actually make one.
    Yes taking out OBL was never an easy prospect. The Bushies couldn’t do that either. Obama did.
    And as for Afghanistan being pacified…it wasn’t before ’01…and it won’t be when we leave. No matter what we do. Accept it.

    Again…go in big…really f’ing big, level the place, bring OBL to justice. Done. Everything else has been a waste and no amount of Monday Morning Quarterbacking by keyboard commandoes will change that.

    And now we think attacking Iran might be a good idea. WTF.

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  6. Murray says:

    And if a draft was still in place at least for support troops, we would have been out of there years ago.

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  7. Ron Beasley says:

    I just read and reviewed We Heard the Heavens Then: A Memoir of Iran, a story of Iran in the decade leading up to the revolution. The impression one gets is that a vast majority of the population didn’t so much oppose the Shah but the Western secularism he was trying to force on them.

    The author paints a picture of an Iran that is not just divided along 1% – 99% line but also on a secular – pious line, but there is a great deal of overlap. Much of Iran was not enjoying the miracles from the west but they didn’t want to. I think that we can see some of the problems we are having in Afghanistan – a majority who simply don’t want to be forced into a secular world.

    That is the problem with nation building in a country like Afghanistan – you can’t change a culture at gun point.

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  8. @Hey Norm:

    The 2009 surge was Obama’s decision and Obama’s decision alone and it was a significant increase of our commitment as we signed on to a counter-insurgency strategy. That wasn’t the only option that he was presented with at the time. There were others advocating a counter-terror strategy that would have involved a much smaller footprint in country combined with drone strikes against known terrorist sties.

    In retrospect that may have been the better option.

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  9. Hey Norm says:

    Again…the better of no good options. And he did not have the benefit of retrospect.
    Personally I would have bugged out on Jan. 10 ’09. But I’m a Conservative.

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  10. Brummagem Joe says:

    Not just because the American people don’t want it, but because it’s becoming eminently clear that the Afghans don’t want it either

    It’s been eminently clear the Afghans didn’t want us there for the last nine years.

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  11. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    The 2009 surge was Obama’s decision and Obama’s decision alone and it was a significant increase of our commitment as we signed on to a counter-insurgency strategy.

    By this you mean the president signed off on a nearly unanimous recommendation by his leading civilian foreign policy and military leadership to contain a military situation that was rapidly deteriorating despite a doubling of the force in the country by GWB some 12 months earlier.

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  12. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    and it was a significant increase of our commitment as we signed on to a counter-insurgency strategy.

    Oh we hadn’t been conducting counter insurgency ops in the country for years? I wonder why Bush despatched an additional 35-40,000 men in late 2008 thereby doubling the size of the force we had in the country. What were they going for. To dig wells? Give violin lessons?

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  13. @Brummagem Joe:

    And Obama more than doubled down on that commitment. He didn’t have to. That’s the point.

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  14. Hey Norm says:

    An alternate view to Doug’s…
    http://www.thewashingtonnote.com/archives/2011/06/us_forces_in_af/

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  15. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    He didn’t have to. That’s the point.

    Well the alternative was to let the military situation rapidly deteriorate. That was alright with you then?

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  16. @Brummagem Joe:

    The alternative was reducing our commitment, forgetting about the absurd idea of nation-building in a backward land that barely deserves the title of “nation,” and focusing on attacking terror targets.

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  17. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    The alternative was reducing our commitment, forgetting about the absurd idea of nation-building in a backward land that barely deserves the title of “nation,” and focusing on attacking terror targets.

    Doug, I really wonder if you know what you’re talking about. Sending these additional 30,000 troops on top of the 40,000 Bush had sent a year earlier was NOT about nation building it was about arresting a deteriorating military situation. Do I have to spend 15 minutes googling a bunch of reports at the time explaining this or are you going to take my word for it?

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  18. Joe,

    Yes the answer to a plan that hadn’t worked it so repeat the plan. Great decision there, Obama

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  19. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Yes the answer to a plan that hadn’t worked it so repeat the plan. Great decision there, Obama

    Faced with reality Doug goes to vague and meaningless generalities and pro forma Obama hate. What don’t you get about this about this Doug. The military situation was spiralling out of control and had been for two years. Bush sent reinforcements to try and contain the situation and Obama sent more (not to nation build as you incorrectly asserted, nation building was junked years ago) and it has been successful in at least stopping the rot and producing a military stalemate. This is all a matter of public record.

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  20. Brummagem Joe says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I suppose Mullen the Chairman of the joint chiefs was lying?

    August 23, 2009|Polya Lesova, MarketWatch

    ShareEmailPrint
    NEW YORK (MarketWatch) — The war in Afghanistan is getting worse, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff said Sunday, according to media reports.

    “I think it is serious and it is deteriorating, and I’ve said that over the past couple of years — that the Taliban insurgency has gotten better, more sophisticated, in their tactics,” Admiral Mike Mullen reportedly said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

    Mullen also said that Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the new commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, is still completing his assessment of the situation on the ground and hasn’t yet requested additional troops, reports said.

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