Sunday, March 11, 2012

Washington Post-ABC News Poll: 60 Percent in U.S. Say Afghanistan War Not Worth It

Afghanistan is in the news big time today, with the reports that an American soldier has killed at least 16 civilians in Kandahar province. And in response, GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich has called for a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. In contrast, Senator John McCain, appearing on Fox News Sunday just after Gingrich spoke, argued that:
“It is one of those things that you cannot explain except to extend your deepest sympathy to those victims and see that justice is done” ... He warned against allowing incidents such as the shooting to undermine the nation’s resolve in Afghanistan.
McCain's is the minority opinion, as measured by a new poll out from the Washington Post, "Poll: Few in U.S. sense Afghan support for war":
Few Americans sense widespread Afghan support for what the United States is trying to do in that country, a perception that bolsters public backing of a troop withdrawal, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Overall views of the war in Afghanistan are in the pits: 60 percent of Americans see the war as not worth its costs, nearly double the 35 percent saying the decade-long effort has warranted the expense and lost lives. There has been consistent majority opposition to the war for nearly two years....

Overall, 54 percent of all Americans want to pull out U.S. troops from Afghanistan even if the Afghan army is not adequately trained to carry on the fight. About six in 10 Democrats and independents back this position, but the number slides to just under four in 10 among Republicans.
As the report indicates, public sentiment on the war has been deteriorating for some time. And the increasing number of incidents, such as the attacks on American forces by Afghan police, etc., has added to the drumbeat for withdrawal. I've been personally torn on this for some time, but my gut reaction is to stay the course. Things may not get better soon, but they could get a whole lot worse in a hurry. And frankly, I hate the idea of losing a war --- which is exactly the line that progressives will spin out over and over again when U.S. vital interests are threatened in the future.

The Washington Post had an outstanding editorial on this a few weeks back, which summarizes my thoughts pretty well, "Despite the deepening crisis, the Afghan strategy is worth saving":
THE LATEST CRISIS in Afghanistan strikes at the heart of the U.S. strategy for preventing the country from reverting to Taliban rule or becoming a base for al-Qaeda. If those goals are to be achieved, the Afghan security forces that have been recruited, trained and equipped at enormous cost over the past several years must be sustained — something that will require continued training and advising by NATO, and heavy outside funding, for many years to come. That prospect seemed to be endangered last week when four U.S. soldiers were killed by Afghans in uniform. After an attack inside the Interior Ministry in Kabul, U.S. and NATO advisers were withdrawn from all ministries.

Fortunately, Pentagon and White House officials are describing the move as temporary and have said that the Obama administration and NATO remain committed to the underlying strategy. Yet the episode seems likely to strengthen those in and outside the administration who seek to accelerate the drawdown of U.S. troops next year and slash funding for Afghan forces. While perhaps appealing to voters in an election year, those steps would only compound the challenges facing the Afghan mission....

The popular backlash in Afghanistan nevertheless reflects deeper problems. There is understandable weariness with foreign troops after more than a decade of inconclusive war; resentment at the death of civilians in NATO operations; and frustration with the corruption and fecklessness of a U.S.-backed government. The Obama administration’s poor handling of Mr. Karzai has magnified these problems, while its setting of politically motivated timetables for troop withdrawals and aggressive pursuit of negotiations with the Taliban has convinced many Afghans that the United States is preparing to abandon the country.

The only secure and honorable means of exit is to finish the work of creating an Afghan army and police force capable of defending the country from the Taliban and other extremists, with backup from U.S. special forces and air power. Achieving that goal by the end of 2014, the current NATO timetable, will be hard enough, as the events of the past week vividly show. If the Obama administration chooses to accelerate the timetable or significantly reduce the funding — and thus the size — of Afghan forces, it will become nearly impossible.
More later...