Republicans Now Evenly Divided on Whether Afghanistan War Has Been Worth Fighting

Patrick Goodenough | March 12, 2012 | 4:25am EDT
Font Size

Afghan soldiers walk past a U.S. Army soldier outside a military base in Kandahar province on Sunday, March 11, 2012. (AP Photo/Allauddin Khan)

( – A growing number of Americans – including Republicans – believe the war in Afghanistan has not been worth fighting, a new ABC News/ Washington Post poll finds.

For the first time, Republican respondents are equally divided – 47 percent each – on whether the war has been worth fighting, when the costs versus the benefits are taken into account.

Historically, the poll has tracked a steady closing of the gap between Republicans on the issue since 2009, when 74 percent said the war was worth fighting while just 23 percent disagreed.

The poll was conducted March 7-10, soon after a period of violent protests following the unintentional burning of Qur’ans at a U.S. base in Bagram on February 20. More than 40 people were killed, among them six American soldiers – including two officers assassinated while working inside an Afghan government ministry.

Among Democrats, the pollsters found 68 percent feel the war has not been worth fighting while 28 percent say it has been. Sixty-four percent of independent respondents said the war has not been worth fighting, and 33 percent said it has been.

Overall, the poll found 60 percent of Americans say the war has not been worth fighting, while 35 percent believe it has. In February 2009, a month after President Obama took office, the poll found 50 percent of respondents felt the war worth fighting, versus 47 percent who disagreed.

Another finding in the new poll: A majority of respondents – across party lines – believe that most Afghans do not support “what the United States is trying to do” in their country. Fifty-five percent of respondents said most Afghans oppose the U.S. effort, while 30 percent said most support it. Fifteen percent offered no opinion.

The pollsters also asked whether the U.S. should keep its military forces in Afghanistan until the Afghan army is self-sufficient, or whether it should withdraw the troops even if that goal has not been achieved.

Fifty-four percent said the forces should be withdrawn; 43 percent said they should remain in Afghanistan. Democrats and independents backed withdrawal by a larger margin (about six in ten) than did Republicans (just under four in ten).

A NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll taken one week earlier found a somewhat different result: Asked, “Do you think the war in Afghanistan against the Taliban and Al Qaeda has been very successful, somewhat successful, somewhat unsuccessful, or very unsuccessful?” a net 57 percent of respondents said very or somewhat successful, while a net 41 percent said somewhat or very unsuccessful.

A Gallup poll last month found Afghanistan third from the bottom in a list of countries viewed most favorably by Americans.

Only Iran and North Korea were lower, while those scoring higher – that is, viewed more favorably than Afghanistan – included China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan and the Palestinian Authority.

The score for Afghanistan, 14 percent, tied with last year’s record low for that country in Gallup’s annual poll – down from a high of 40 percent in 2005.

U.S.-led forces went into Afghanistan after the 9/11 terror attacks to topple the ruling fundamentalist Taliban militia that had sheltered al-Qaeda.

Over the decade since, more than 1,900 American military personnel have been killed there, most of them at the hands of the Taliban and its allies. Other members of the NATO-led coalition there have lost more than 1,000 soldiers.

mrc merch