Poll: Two-thirds of Americans say Afghan war not worth fighting

Soldiers with the 101st Airborne Division enter a C-130 at Forward Operating Base Salerno in Afghanistan, Sept. 23, 2013.


By CAROL J. WILLIAMS | Los Angeles Times | Published: December 20, 2013

Two-thirds of Americans questioned in a recent poll said the 12-year war fought in Afghanistan to cleanse the country of terrorists hasn’t been worth the price paid in lives and dollars.

Nevertheless, a majority still favors keeping some U.S. forces in the troubled country even after the military mission ends a year from now, the ABC News/Washington Post poll found.

The survey conducted for the media by Langer Research Associates of New York found that disillusionment with the U.S.-led war was expressed by a majority of all political leanings. Overall, 66 percent of respondents said the war hasn’t been worth it. Those who identified themselves as liberals were most unhappy with the military investment: 78 percent said the war was a mistake.

Independent voters were also highly critical of the war, with 71 percent expressing regret, followed by 67 percent of Democrats, 61 percent of conservatives and 54 percent of Republicans.

In its report on the poll, ABC News said the latest results match the peak of U.S. public criticism of the 2003-11 war in Iraq. The United States completed its withdrawal from Iraq two years ago, and sectarian fighting has gradually escalated.

The private iCasualties website reports that 4,486 U.S. troops died in Iraq during the U.S. presence.

The U.S. death toll in Afghanistan stood at 2,300 on Friday, according to iCasualties.

The size of any U.S. contingent in Afghanistan to assist with training and counterinsurgency after the combat mission ends next year has yet to be fixed, as Afghan President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign a bilateral security agreement negotiated by Washington and Kabul.

U.S. officials have been pushing Karzai to sign the agreement by the end of this year so that the Pentagon can plan and budget accordingly for post-2014 deployments, although President Barack Obama is willing to extend the deadline, according to aids.

The agreement defining the U.S. military presence after next year was approved last month by a 2,500-member national council of elders, called a loya jirga. But Karzai has been insisting that the final signature be made by the next president, to be elected in April.

Despite the lack of clarity on troop strength in 2015 and beyond, 55 percent of the 1,005 adults polled by Langer said they support keeping some military presence in Afghanistan. At 65 percent, political moderates were the most supportive of keeping some noncombat troops stationed in the country. Conservatives and liberals were both less enthusiastic, with 52 percent and 46 percent backing, respectively, for the post-2014 contingent.

The poll was conducted Dec. 12-15 and had a 3.5 percent margin of error, Langer said.

Commanders of a 101st Airborne Division patrol in the Khowst Province of Afghanistan confer while another soldier watches the street, Oct. 20, 2013.

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