Americans are not unanimously tired of the war in Afghanistan


In debates about the future of the war in Afghanistan, policymakers and analysts have come to invoke it as an admission that the Americans want the troops to come home quickly. But is this conventional wisdom correct? Not necessarily, based on our analysis of a number of opinion polls of Americans on Afghanistan that have been conducted in the past few years.

On the issue of withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, ordinary Americans display a great deal of ambivalence. Veterans are also split on this question but are more likely to show strong opinions on both sides of the spectrum. The data indicate that the sound, coordinator Popular campaigns Currently conducted by veterans groups represents only one subgroup of veterans. More specifically, the veterans who served after the 9/11 attacks are as well More likely to feel strong About ending our intervention in Afghanistan.

A look at the data reveals that a large number of Americans surveyed do not respond to questions about troop withdrawals, possibly reflecting a lack of strong opinions. In a recent survey conducted by the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) in the fall of 2020 for researchers Peter Fever and Jim Golby, only 59% of survey respondents answered a question about withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. In previous polls conducted by him Maryland University In October 2019 and the other by YouGov In 2018, nearly a fifth of respondents chose not to answer questions about troop levels in Afghanistan. Behind this lies the fact that US voters do not rank foreign policy high on their priority list – a survey of registered voters in 2020. Found They ranked it sixth on a list of 12 priorities – and Afghanistan is just one of several pressing foreign policy issues facing the United States.

In these surveys, even respondents who provide an opinion on withdrawal are divided on the question. In the Fall 2020 NORC Poll, 34% of respondents to the survey They said they would support a troop withdrawal (as opposed to Taliban assurances of fighting terrorism under the agreement signed in Doha in February 2020), while 25% said they opposed it. While one had expected the Doha deal would normalize the idea of ​​withdrawal in the Fall 2020 poll, that did not entirely happen. The poll, prior to the Doha agreement, showed mixed results: thirty-four percent of the respondents University of Maryland survey As of October 2019, he was in favor of maintaining troop levels in Afghanistan, 23% were in favor of reducing troop levels, and 22% were in favor of removing all forces in the next year. A similar question asked YouGov In 2018 it also revealed mixed results.

Interestingly, however, there was more support in YouGov’s poll to withdraw all troops if the decision was made under a hypothetical presidential mandate. 61% of respondents supported withdrawal in this case, while 20% opposed it. No timeline provided for this question. The absence of a majority for either option at either ballot box – coupled with clear majority support for withdrawal in the event of a presidential mandate – indicates the public’s uncertainty about Afghanistan policy. This indicates that the government’s political decisions on Afghanistan may lead public opinion, not the other way around.

The absence of a majority for either option in any of the polls … indicates the public’s uncertainty about Afghanistan policy.

Americans are likely to support the idea of ​​a longer withdrawal timeline: YouGov Poll Conducted in 2018, it looked at a five-year time horizon and found that 42% of respondents support the removal of all forces in the next five years – that is, by 2023 – indicating that the discrepancy we highlighted above manifests itself in a shorter time. horizons.

In NORC and YouGov surveys, military respondents are more likely to express their opinion on questions related to troop withdrawals than civilians. In the YouGov survey, this increased military response rate translated into higher support for both ends of the spectrum on the issue of withdrawal: increasing and maintaining forces, as well as removing forces within the next year (but not for reducing troop levels). Military respondents were also more likely to respond when asked about their opinion of the hypothetical presidential mandate to withdraw. This increased response rate coincided with an increase in military support for the withdrawal, under a presidential mandate, compared to the general public.

According to their experiences, opinions are divided among the military about the withdrawal from Afghanistan. according to NORC Poll40% of veterans who served before 9/11 supported a troop reduction and 32% opposed it. However, 54% of those who served post-9/11 supported the cuts, and 29% opposed them. Perhaps not surprisingly, veterans of the post-9/11 wars are more tired of them.

YouGov 2018 survey reveals marked differences between veterans ages 25 to 34 and those older. Multiplicity in the younger group supported maintaining troop levels for the following year, while the older group was divided more or less equally among all options – increase, maintain, reduce, and remove all forces. The younger age group is also much less likely to favor removing all forces in the next year than the older groups: Nine percent of the younger group expressed a desire to withdraw all forces in 12 months compared to about 30 percent of the older group.

The American public is unsure of the next steps to take in Afghanistan, and for good reason: the decision is very difficult, with the downsides of staying and leaving. The audience appears to be partly ambivalent, and partly divided on the correct course of action. Veteran groups are also divided over the correct political decision. What is clear is that the abstention common in political debates “wanted by the Americans” is not accurate and should not be presented as the driving force for the withdrawal effort from Afghanistan.

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