When President Barack Obama announced the 30,000 U.S. troop surge for Afghanistan in December 2009, he said: “It must be clear that Afghans will have to take responsibility for their security, and that America has no interest in fighting an endless war in Afghanistan.”
Tales from the Trail
If President Barack Obama opts to increase the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan next week, the decision could be underscored by something a bit unusual for his policies: growing U.S. public support.
Polling data have shown for a while now that most Americans don’t favor many of Obama’s policy positions, despite his enduring personal popularity.
A USA Today/Gallup poll depicts Obama battling headwinds on a number of fronts: Americans oppose the closing of Gitmo by more than a 2-to-1 margin; those against healthcare reform edge out those in favor by 5 percentage points; and most don’t want accused Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed tried in civilian court in New York City.
Afghanistan is no cakewalk, either. Public opinion is divided over the question of more troops and 55 percent of Americans disapprove of the president’s handling of the war up to now — a reversal of his 56 percent approval rating four months ago.
But the polling data, compiled Nov. 20-22, might also suggest a silver lining for the president as he nears an announcement that could send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan.
Less than half of Americans — 47 percent — favor a troop increase. But that’s up from 42 percent in a Nov. 5-8 survey.
Plus, the opposition is down: 39 percent of Americans now want the president to reduce the U.S. military footprint, vs. 44 percent earlier.
What hasn’t changed for Obama is that Republicans, not fellow Democrats, are his best buddies when it comes to increasing troops. Seventy-two percent of Republicans back a bigger U.S. force in Afghanistan, while 57 percent of Democrats say it’s time to start pulling out.
As President Barack Obama nears a decision on whether to send more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, some experts say he should consider the signal his decision will send about his broader commitment to the war, which has grown increasingly unpopular at home.
Public support for sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan is on the rise, according to an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released on Tuesday. The poll finds 47 percent of Americans favor boosting the troop level in Afghanistan, compared to 43 percent who are opposed to the idea.
Senator John Kerry, who once aspired to host meetings in the Oval Office, will be visiting President Barack Obama in that room Wednesday to talk about his recent trip to Afghanistan.
It is encouraging that the U.S. administration finally seems to be getting a handle on what went wrong in Afghanistan these past eight years.