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A 101st Airborne Division soldier prepares to toss a smoke grenade during a live-fire training exercise May 13, 2015, in Laghman province, Afghanistan.

A 101st Airborne Division soldier prepares to toss a smoke grenade during a live-fire training exercise May 13, 2015, in Laghman province, Afghanistan. (Charlie Emmons/U.S. Army)

President Barack Obama’s March announcement of a delay to withdraw about 10,000 troops from Afghanistan has general, bipartisan support by the U.S. public, according to the results of a survey released Thursday by the Pew Research Center.

Fifty-eight percent of the 2,002 people polled earlier this month approve of Obama’s decision to keep the U.S. forces in Afghanistan through the end of this year, while 39 percent disapprove.

Majorities of respondents identifying themselves as Democrats, Republicans or independents approved of the decision, the survey report said.

But in most other aspects of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, Americans are feeling negative.

Pessimism about the United States’ mission in Afghanistan remains strong, with 56 percent of those polled saying the U.S. has mostly failed to achieve its goals in the country, to which the U.S. sent troops shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C. That negative attitude remains little changed since early 2014, the report said.

Few Americans believe that long-term stability can be achieved in Afghanistan, with 68 percent of respondents saying it’s unlikely the country will maintain a stable government after U.S. forces leave.

Four years ago, 38 percent of those polled thought Afghanistan would remain stable after the U.S. withdrew; the new poll found 29 percent believing that.

In the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in May 2011, a majority of Americans polled expressed optimism, with 62 percent of respondents saying they believed the U.S. “would definitely or probably” succeed in achieving its goals in Afghanistan.

“The decline in assessments of U.S. achievements in Afghanistan has occurred across party lines,” the Pew survey report said. “In June 2011, most Republicans (67%) and Democrats (61%) said they thought the U.S. would definitely or probably succeed in achieving its goals in Afghanistan. The current survey finds opinion is much more negative among both groups: fewer than half of Republicans (30%) and Democrats (43%) now say they think the U.S. has mostly succeeded in achieving its goals in Afghanistan.”

olson.wyatt@stripes.com Twitter: @WyattWOlson

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Wyatt Olson is based in the Honolulu bureau, where he has reported on military and security issues in the Indo-Pacific since 2014. He was Stars and Stripes’ roving Pacific reporter from 2011-2013 while based in Tokyo. He was a freelance writer and journalism teacher in China from 2006-2009.
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