Poll finds new low in Afghan war support
Even as the Obama administration's forthcoming Afghanistan-Pakistan review largely touts the U.S. military strategy there as a success, a new poll reveals that a large percentage of Americans say that the nine-year war is not worth fighting.
According to an ABC News/Washington Post poll released Thursday, about 60 percent of Americans said that the war is "not worth fighting," a new high in public dissatisfaction and a 7-point increase since July. Only 34 percent said that the war is indeed worth fighting, down 9 points to a new low.
President Obama called for a revised strategy of the war last year, agreeing to send in an additional 30,000 troops to bolster a U.S. offensive to dismantle and defeat Taliban strongholds, particularly in the south. A year later, "the momentum achieved by the Taliban in recent years has been arrested in much of the country and reversed in some key areas," according to the summary of the White House-commissioned Afghanistan-Pakistan review.
Even so, the current levels of disapproval for the war in Afghanistan compare with those for the war in Iraq, which wreaked havoc on President Bush's approval ratings during his second term. Obama's ratings for handling the war, however, are "considerably better than Bush's," the poll says.
According to the poll, 45 percent approve of Obama's "work on Afghanistan," while 46 percent disapprove. These are mixed results, to be sure, but during Bush's second term, an average of 63 percent disapproved of his handling of the Iraq war.
U.S. gains in the region "remain fragile and reversible," the summary of the Afghanistan-Pakistan review states, calling for a need to make more progress with Pakistan to eliminate the militant strongholds across the lawless border. Even so, the review says that the successes on the ground set the stage for a "responsible, conditions-based U.S. troop reduction in July 2011," in accordance with the Obama administration's timeline last year. Under the plan outlined at the NATO summit in Lisbon, Portugal, last month, U.S. troops are expected to remain in the country until at least 2014.
The full version of the Afghanistan-Pakistan review is expected to stop short of announcing estimates for how many troops will be withdrawn, and from which areas of the country. Fifty-four percent of Americans support the 2011 drawdown time frame, according to the poll, up 15 points since the timetable was announced last year.
The poll also says 27 percent want the withdrawal to begin sooner; 12 want a later date, down 7 points from a year ago.
The troop surge and expanded special operations forces in the country have been essential to progress made in "clearing the Taliban heartland" in Afghanistan, the report states. Yet the poll results show that now, Americans are evenly split 48-48 percent in their support or disapproval of the troop surge Obama mandated last year.
Meanwhile, troop casualties have only increased in the last year. According to icasualties.org, 489 U.S. troops have been killed and 4,481 wounded in 2010, compared with 317 killed and 2,144 wounded in 2009, and 155 killed, 793 wounded in 2008.
Even Republicans, a group much more supportive as a whole of the war in Afghanistan, reported significant dips in their approval. About half of Republicans said the war has "not been worth it, down a dramatic 35 points from the high in 2007," according to the poll's summary. Republican approval for Obama's handling of the war has tanked by 17 points since July.
This is a "a conundrum for Obama," the poll's summary states, "in that the group that most favors the war least likes his handling of it."