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Most Americans Now Think U.S. Should’ve Kept Some Troops In Afghanistan — Despite Previously Backing War’s End

Topline

One month after the U.S. military wrapped up its frantic departure from Afghanistan amid a Taliban takeover, most Americans do not think withdrawing all forces was the right course of action, Quinnipiac revealed in a Wednesday poll — even though the majority of U.S. adults supported winding down the two-decade-long war in Afghanistan last month.

Key Facts

Just 28% of U.S. adults told Quinnipiac University a total withdrawal from Afghanistan was the right move, compared to 50% who supported pulling out some — but not all — remaining troops and 15% who favored leaving all troops in Afghanistan.

However, just three weeks ago, Quinnipiac reported 69% of Americans — including 90% of Democrats and 48% of Republicans — thought ending the war in Afghanistan was the right decision, lining up with other polls showing weariness of the 20-year war.

Some 54% of adults told Quinnipiac last month they approved of the decision to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan, and the same percentage told Pew Research Center in late August withdrawing was the right decision, even though both those polls were conducted after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan.

This shift could be driven by the war’s less-than-triumphant end, including a deadly Kabul terror attack, a chaotic mission to evacuate U.S. allies and a return to the Taliban’s hardline governing style: Quinnipiac analyst Tim Malloy wrote Americans are “weary of the seemingly endless conflict but wary of what was left behind.”

The poll also reflects broader frustrations with Biden, whose job approval rating dropped from 42% to 38% in the last three weeks, according to Quinnipiac (FiveThirtyEight’s weighted average of polls shows Biden’s approval slightly higher, at 44.2%).

Quinnipiac surveyed 1,326 adults between Friday and Monday for its most recent poll.

Tangent

The results of Quinnipiac’s poll varied widely by party: 63% of Republicans backed withdrawing some but not all U.S. personnel from Afghanistan, compared to 38% of Democrats, and Democrats (47%) were far more likely than Republicans (7%) to support pulling all troops.

Surprising Fact

When President Joe Biden chose to withdraw from Afghanistan in the spring, the number of U.S. forces left in the country had already dropped precipitously. The Pentagon said 2,500 troops were stationed in Afghanistan five days before Biden’s inauguration, down from about 12,000 less than a year earlier and 100,000 at the height of a 2009-2011 surge.

Big Number

27%. That’s the share of U.S. adults who thought Biden did an excellent or good job handling Afghanistan in August, according to a poll from Pew Research Center. The same poll found support for ending the war in Afghanistan topped 50%, meaning Americans may back leaving Afghanistan in theory but take issue with how the withdrawal was handled.

Key Background

Earlier this year, Biden pledged to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, ending the longest war in American history by the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attack that initially drove the U.S. military into Afghanistan. But the Taliban overwhelmed the U.S.-backed former Afghan government’s forces while the United States retreated earlier this year, and by mid-August, the militant group took control of the capital city of Kabul. The U.S. finally left in August, after American personnel spent two weeks guarding an airport in Taliban-run Kabul to facilitate a frantic and often dangerous evacuation mission. The Biden administration has faced stiff criticism for its handling of the withdrawal, and some military officials told Congress last week they believed the United States should’ve kept troops in the country. Still, Biden has argued his options were limited by a troop withdrawal deal inked by the Taliban and the Trump administration last year. Administration officials said extending the U.S. mission in Afghanistan could cause hostilities with the Taliban to resume, forcing the Pentagon to deploy more troops and recommit to a war Biden has cast as obsolete and unnecessary.

Further Reading

Even Democrats Don’t Think Biden Did A Good Job On Afghanistan Withdrawal, Poll Finds (Forbes)

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