Americans vote for Afghan troop surge, but Afghans differ

February 26, 2009

An overwhelming majority of Americans support President Barack Obama’s decision to deploy an additional 17,000 troops to Afghanistan, according to a Gallup poll this week. It said 65 percent approved the measure, with support among Republicans hitting 75 percent, making it one of the rare policy decisions where a president gets greater backing from those who identify with an opposing political party than his own.

And in a still greater boost for his young presidency, 77 percent of those who voted for the surge said they would also approve if  Obama decided to send another 13,000 troops to Afghanistan as many expect after a regional policy review.

What’s the reason for this support for American boots on the ground ? Is Afghanistan really the good war in a way that Iraq was not?

One clue could be found in another poll that Gallup did before the latest one. It showed that a majority of Americans believed that the war was going very or moderately badly for the United States in Afghanistan, continuing a trend that began in mid-2008. And fully 70 percent of those polled felt that the Taliban would re-take control if U.S. forces were withdrawn. So they likely view the decision to send more troops as unfortunate but necessary.

Another interesting finding that was that only 30 percent thought sending troops to Afghanistan was a mistake in contrast to the majority who consistently said from Octber 2008 that deployment in Iraq was a mistake.

 But what of the people of Afghanistan? How do they see the stepped up deployment of U.S. forces  and indeed their own future? The most recent poll that I could see was one released jointly by ABC News, BBC and German TV earlier this month and the divergence  between the American people and their Afghan brethren  half a world away is inescapable. Click here for a PDF.

While Afghans would broadly agree that things haven’t quite turned out the way they hoped with only 40 percent thinking the country was headed in the right direction from a high of 77 percent in 2005, many seem to have turned on America itself.

Only 47 percent of Afghans have  a favourable view of the United States, a sharp fall from the high of 83 percent in 2005 which in itself was unheard of in the Muslim world.  Only 37 percent said people in their area supported Western forces, and a quarter said attacks on U.S. or NATO/ISAF forces were justified.

Little surprise then, that only 18 percent of Afghans supported an increase in U.S. and or NATO troop levels in the country.  Far more, 44 percent, wanted the opposite, that is a reduction in Western forces that many blame for rising civilian casualties.

As the Washington Post put it, the troops that are coming in now will face not only a resurgent and well-armed Taliban insurgency, but an equally daunting foe: public opinion.  More foreign troops will exacerbate the problem, the paper reported, citing interviews with ordinary Afghans that seem to echo the findings of the survey.

So is there a clash of perceptions between the American and the Afghan people,  or is it a clash of interests?

(Reuters pictures of U.S. troops in a plane headed for Afghanistan and on the ground in eastern Afghanistan)


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Well CIA, Saudi, Pakistan should have thought before creating this Frankenstein monster! India, Kashmir were suffering for last 30 years and 60000 Indian died! Anybody cared!

After US left Afghanistan in 90s, Pakistan Saudi created Taliban. After consuming Pakistan, Taliban is going to Saudi.

Can’t have this debate in the middle of a one-way tunnel. Just move forward.. faster.. fix Pakistan First, then Afghanistan.. then Saudi.

US can’t win this war when ally Pakistan hides terrorists, surrenders or finances them.

Posted by David | Report as abusive

a winnable war implies a clear and attainable set of goals and a way to know when they have been met. can such be applied to a people so strongly divided along ethnic lines, language, and religion be considered ripe for democracy, and is there really any basis for assuming that the afghan people want it?

Posted by jd | Report as abusive

Wouldn’t regime change be the right thing?

Clearly, there is no right or clear way in current Pakistan? Zardari, Sharif, Army ISI, Taliban, Choudhury, supreme court .. no one likes the other. Whoever gets to power first bans or deports the rest. China, Saudi, US have made a mess! Apart from IMF loan, Pakistan needs another 10-15 billion dollars US aid to survive for next 6 months.

Regime change would be the quickest, nicest and permanent solution. Anything else is just temporary patchwork.

Posted by David | Report as abusive

Road to Kabul goes through Islamabad. And Pakistan, Iran are bigger priorities than Afghanistan.

Fix Pakistan, Iran first!

Posted by Global Citizen | Report as abusive

George Bush had all the support when he planned to take out the Taliban and Al Qaeda from Afghanistan in 2001. He should have spent the entire effort on Afghanistan and Pakistan right then. His secretary of state went to the wrong man – Musharraf. India’s offer for help was ignored.

The US should have gone to India for this war on terror. Both countries should have planned joint operations and taken out both Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is going to happen now after 8 years of wasted effort. Only now the US is realizing how slimy and slippery the Pakistanis are.

Pakistan had everything that Bush was accusing Iraq of – WMDs, terrorism, Al Qaeda and Madrasas. Instead the idiot put most of his efforts into Iraq that was already well contained. The end result is that it gave enough time for Musharraf of sneak out of the hole he was stuck in and the Taliban had enough time to resurface. And Iraq has turned into an uncontrollable quagmire.

Obama is doing the right thing even if it is too late. But 17000 more troops will not do. If Iraq had been left alone, Saddam Hussein could have been turned loose on Iran and that would have kept the two countries busy, while full efforts could have been taken to contain Pakistan, which is the real culprit as far as global terrorism is concerned. It is the epi center. It is not too late. Truth always wins at the end.

Posted by Mauryan | Report as abusive


Leave Pakistan alone. Let it Talibanize, our efforts should be to secure and confiscate each and every one of the Pakistani nuke arsenal through any hook and crook or bribery, whatever it takes.

Absolutely no regime change and no war with Pakistan.

Cut off all international trade with Pakistan. No more fuel, no more energy, cut off the Water from India, cut off all technology, airplane parts, everything. Let it implode upon itself.

Let it regress to the stone age. It will destroy itself with enough time and roll back 1200 years.

No more troops and war Afghanistan or Pakistan.

Posted by Global Watcher | Report as abusive

I would differ slightly. This entire mess has been created by the US in the first place and they ought to clean it. That means they have to take strong measures on Pakistani establishment and ensure that Pakistan army and ISI have to fight the Talibans rather than provide aid to them.

Posted by Tushar | Report as abusive

Global Watcher,
When P goes supernova, India gets impacted first. A stable, secure, strong and mature P is in the best interest of all.

Posted by David | Report as abusive

Pottery Barn rule: You break it, You own it.

US broke Afghanistan and spoiled Pakistan.

Suck it up now!

Posted by Global Citizen | Report as abusive


what you are saying sounds like a much larger war with a horrific amount of casualties. unleashing remorseless tyrants on oneanother who will only sheild themshelves with there populations.a war that would only cement neiboring nations hatred of each other for generations to come. and bring the very real possibility of nuclear holocast to central asia. iraq was a mistake and criminal. the american people being scared into a war over an out an out lie. it was wrong. but i dont think a multinational regional bloodbath was the better option.

Posted by matt | Report as abusive


I wish the US left the Soviet Union to deal with Afghanistan and did not indulge in a war using local tribes intoxicated with religious zeal. Compared to what we are seeing today, the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan seems like a school picnic. These guys are better off under such regimes where they emasculate the religion to the hilt and the society changes as a result. You do not see such war mongering in neighboring Central Asian Islamic countries. They are quiet and mind their own business. They have been emasculated by the Communist regime. Afghanistan would undergone a similar transformation. But geo-politics ruined it all. Look at what we are facing now.

Posted by Mauryan | Report as abusive

The US should do well to build up troops in Afghanistan, as well as buildup the counter-insurgency capability of the Afghans.

What the US should not do is listen to Indians, who want Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to be destroyed, instead of focusing on Afghanistan.

Posted by Aamir Ali | Report as abusive

Can India really be unscathed if things go wrong in Pakistan ? Do the attacks in Mumbai suggest that two nations are even more bound up with each other for better or worse than many would admit?

I ask because some people have suggested that Pakistan must be allowed to run itself down, even perhaps helped down that path by isolating it, snapping trade etc.

A state on your doorstep in serious difficulties : is that something to worry about and try to head off so that the problem doesn’t spill over ? Or is it the calculation that you uould emerge stronger as your neighbour struggles ?

Posted by Sanjeev Miglani | Report as abusive


India has no other choice but to allow pakistan to run itself down.. How can India help pakistan with its internal political turbulence even if it wanted to ?? It will always be taken in a wrong sense..
Last time when India helped pakistan by sending a aid during earth quake, pakistan sent more militants in to kashmir, violated cease fire and more recently did it in Mumbai.
The well being of pakistan definately affect India..and that is if its doing well, it invests more and more into Kashmir seperatism and terror activities.

Posted by Anitha | Report as abusive

Sanjeev Miglani

—India is not pak-centric as is the case vice versa, it’s least interested in any sort of ‘calculations’ concerned with pakistan, someone who’ll know India with it’s – jaath-paath, votebank & other self-revolving nature would understand that India has a ‘who cares’ attitude towards pakistan, provided it’s not provoked…

Posted by Anup | Report as abusive

On the other hand Sanjeev, If at all pakistan needs help.. it should forget about India, kashmir and alike..that would be a great help for itself..

Posted by Anitha | Report as abusive


— or else let pakistan run itself down & we’ll deal with the situation whence it arises…

Posted by anup | Report as abusive

I agree Anup.. but US is a great spoiler..i just read some brain retart in US has proposed a 5billion more aid to pakistan..and that would fund cross border terrorism for another decade or so..

Posted by Anitha | Report as abusive


Incidently I posted this today under Myra’s article also and did not know your this message at that time. But I think we are thinking along the same lines.

Pakistan is at a stage where only those whose real/permanent interests lie can help. US/NATO are guest actors—but useful since they have technology, needed for military operations. It is easier said than done that Pakistan will die silently. China has $billions of investment in Pakistan and will be concerned as they have indicated by the deal also. Chinese don’t do anything for nothing. So the question is would Chinese let Pakistan crumble? No, I don’t think so. They will keep on medicating Pak to save it for their own interests. Situation is much like the modern day medicine—average life span is increasing-not necessarily the quality of life. The result is patient does not die, but nor is happy. If Pakistan is true to its people, they must ask India for help (asking for moon?)—sometimes one has to swallow personal ego, which is ruining everything. There is no one better than India as a player if India fears collapse of nuclear-armed Pakistan. But will India trust the promise of Pak state/alone? Pakistanis stomping their boots at lowering-the-flag ceremony at the Wagah-Atari border is no more a symbol of stregth—it is comic under the situation. Any taker?

Posted by rajeev | Report as abusive


— America rejects economic support to pakistan, which would improve the standard of living & elevate the light of the needy & deserving folks & on then handsover $5billion to the army(a large chunk of which would find it’s way to the terrorists), whatever be it’s claim but america’s actions speak louder than it’s words…

Posted by Anup | Report as abusive

The first thing everyone has to worry about is the nuclear weapons in Pakistan. The 5 billion dollar aid and all future economic trade agreements must be tied to a controlled denuclearization. The audacity shown by Pakistani establishment in even standing up to the US comes from this false sense of security provided by their nuclear weapons and missiles. These weapons of mass destruction can only be handled by countries that have stability and responsibility. Pakistan has neither. With the disintegration of Pakistan a strong possibility today, the US and other world powers must meet and come up with a plan to remove all nuclear infrastructure from this country. That must be the highest priority. I am not saying this because I am an Indian. Pakistan does not need these weapons. India will never use its nuclear weapons against anyone as a first strike. India’s nuclear program is directed towards China. Both countries are comparable in size, population and compete economically. They are also regional powers. Pakistan should not compare itself with a big country like India and waste all its money and resources on achieving parity with India.

The US was so adamant about going into Iraq for WMDs. Yet I am surprised that they do not have a similar view towards a much more dangerous nation like Pakistan. I do not understand why they are still nice to them. Pakistan stage managed the Mumbai attacks and I am sure the CIA and FBI are fully aware of it. But they are only offering limited support to India and allowing Pakistan to get away with their act. It makes no sense.

Posted by Mauryan | Report as abusive

its sounds like that you guyz just dont want to see pakistan as a country . when USA help israil that not wrong,when indin army kill ppl in kashmir that not wrong but when few bad ppl from pakitan do any thing bad you guyz talk about there shouldnt be any pakistan. what is india doing in kashmir what is that killing ppl that not terror . when israil army kill women and childern that no terror i just want to know what is that called. why not then any body look at it even they do look at it. They just close there eyes . why its like that ?

Posted by Tahir | Report as abusive


well I guess its Pakistan good fortune that Mr Bush blew a trillion bucks in Iraq and postponed any “Operation Pakistani Freedom” forever! Weep Indians!

Posted by Aamir Ali | Report as abusive