Afghanistan By The Numbers
President Obama has agreed to new Afghani President Ashraf Ghani’s request to delay U.S. troop withdrawals as America’s longest-running war keeps dragging on. Ghani is expected to give his thanks to the U.S. Congress in a speech today.
President George W. Bush launched the war in October 2001 to end Afghanistan’s harboring of al Qaeda terrorists training against the United States, but 13-and-a-half years later, few Americans believe that goal has been reached.
In fact, confidence that the United States is safer today than it was before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks is at its lowest level in nearly four years. Voter confidence that the United States and its allies are winning the War on Terror is also significantly lower than it has been in years past.
Obama officially ended the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan at the end of last year, but he’s keeping several thousand troops there through the end of 2016 for training and counterterrorism purposes. Sixty percent (60%) of voters supported this decision at the time, but it’s unclear how they’d feel about the new delay.
In late December, however, only 33% favored the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan, down from a high of 53% who felt that way in October 2013 on the 12th anniversary of the war’s beginning.
But voters have doubted for several years now whether it is still possible for the United States to win the war in Afghanistan.
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Only 39% of voters now consider Afghanistan a vital national security interest for the United States. By comparison, 54% feel that way about Iran.
Interestingly, Afghanistan remains one of the rare issues where Republicans are more supportive of Obama’s actions than voters in his own party are.
Whether U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan or not, only 20% of all voters think America’s mission there will be judged a success in the long run. Forty-seven percent (47%) think history will view the war as a failure. One-out-of-three voters (32%) are undecided.
Confidence in the U.S. military is at an all-time high, but 71% of voters agree with the late Ronald Reagan that “the United States should not commit its forces to military action overseas unless the cause is vital to our national interest.” Fifty-three percent (53%) still believe our political leaders send the nation’s soldiers into harm’s way too often.
Most voters believe the U.S. military has too many missions these days.
While the war in Afghanistan continues, 41% of Americans think most of their fellow countrymen already have forgotten the impact of 9/11.
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