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Support for Sending More Troops to Afghanistan Rises Slightly

5 years ago
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As news reports surface that President Obama may send 25,000 to 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, a Gallup poll conducted Nov. 20-22 has found a modest uptick during the last two weeks in the number of Americans who support such a move.

But overall, the American public remains closely divided on the issue.

Forty-seven percent would back some level of increase, with 37 percent supporting the 40,000-troop increase Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, requested last September; another 10 percent back an increase by a lesser amount. That compared to 42 percent in a poll taken Nov. 5-8 who would back some level of increase, with 35 percent supporting the 40,000-troop level and 7 percent a lesser amount.

Taking the opposite view, 48 percent would either keep the number of troops the same or reduce it. Nine percent would keep the number the same, up from 7 percent two weeks ago; and 39 percent would reduce the number of troops, down from 44 percent. Five percent expressed no opinion.

A CNN/Opinion Research poll released yesterday also found a split in opinion when it asked how many would support a troop increase of 34,000 additional soldiers. Fifty percent backed it, 49 percent opposed it and 1 percent was undecided. That poll also said that if Obama decided on a smaller number, 56 percent would oppose it and 42 percent would back it.

The New York Times today says that Obama aides had signaled to allies that the president would decide on as many as 25,000 to 30,000 new troops. The Washington Post adds that Obama will call on NATO allies to add another 10,000 soldiers, which would bring the total to what McChrystal requested. The president is expected to address the nation next Tuesday night on his Afghan strategy.

Obama will find that a majority of fellow Democrats -- 57 percent -- do not want to increase troop levels but would rather reduce them. Independents are roughly split with 46 percent backing some level of increase while 45 percent do not. Sixty-five percent of Republicans would back the 40,000-troop increase.

Two-thirds of those polled say the war is going badly but, by 60 percent to 36 percent, Americans do not think the U.S. made a mistake in 2001 when it went to war in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

A Washington Post/ABC News poll conducted Nov. 12-15 and published today, asked the question somewhat differently and got a different result. The Post/ABC poll did not reference 2001 and just asked, "Do you think the war in Afghanistan has been worth fighting, or not?" It found 52 percent saying it was not worth fighting compared to 44 percent who said it was.

Forty-five percent of those polled by Post/ABC preferred that a smaller number of additional troops be sent to Afghanistan, primarily to train that country's military, while 46 percent favored a larger number to fight al-Qaida and the Taliban as well as training Afghan soldiers.

Fifty-five percent are confident that Obama will develop an Afghan strategy that succeeds while 43 percent disagree.

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