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Soldiers hustle from the belly of a Chinook helicopter during a July 18, 2007, air assault in Afghanistan. Nearly half of Americans think the U.S. has failed to achieve its goals in what has become the longest war in the nation's history, according to a new Pew Research Center poll.
Soldiers hustle from the belly of a Chinook helicopter during a July 18, 2007, air assault in Afghanistan. Nearly half of Americans think the U.S. has failed to achieve its goals in what has become the longest war in the nation's history, according to a new Pew Research Center poll. (Stars and Stripes)

Nearly half of Americans think the U.S. has failed to achieve most of its goals in Afghanistan, 17 years after the start of what has become the nation’s longest war, according to a new poll.

Forty-nine percent of Americans say the U.S. has failed in its goals, while 35 percent say it has mostly succeeded, Pew Research Center said in a survey released Friday. Sixteen percent responded that they didn’t know whether it was successful or not.

The judgment of the war follows Pew surveys conducted in 2014 and 2015, which also reported predominately negative views. In 2015, 56 percent described the war as “mostly a failure.”

The latest Pew poll, which surveyed 1,745 people, was conducted from Sept. 18-24. There was a margin of error of 2.7 percent.

A major difference between this poll and the earlier ones is that Republicans and Democrats have flipped in their respective outlooks. During the Obama administration, Democrats were more likely to look favorably on progress being made in Afghanistan. Now, Republicans are more optimistic, with 48 percent saying the U.S. has succeeded in Afghanistan compared with 28 percent of Democrats and left-leaning independents.

Overall, however, the Pew survey found little sign of optimism over a conflict frequently referred to among veterans as the “Forever War.”

While the decision to use military force in Afghanistan to oust the Taliban — a response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 — was regarded by most Americans as the right move at the time, people increasingly see the decision to intervene as having been a mistake.

“As the initial decision to use military force in Afghanistan grows more distant, public opinion has become more divided on whether it was the right decision or wrong decision,” Pew said.

In early 2002, support for the war was at 83 percent, and by 2006, 69 percent still said the military campaign was the right decision.

Now, just 45 percent of those polled say the U.S. made the right decision in using military force, and 39 percent say it was the wrong decision. In early 2002, support was at 83 percent, and by 2006, 69 percent still said the military campaign was the right decision.

Despite the steady erosion of public support, the war in Afghanistan garners little active public opposition. And in Washington, legislators rarely debate the merits of the war.

A new White House counterterrorism strategy, a 34-page document released Thursday, does not even mention Afghanistan, though the U.S. is described as a nation at war facing “radical Islamist terrorist groups.”

vandiver.john@stripes.com Twitter: @john_vandiver

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