NEW SURVEY: Seventeen Years On, Americans—Including Veterans—Want Out of Afghanistan
10-08-2018 08:55am

NEW SURVEY: Seventeen Years On, Americans—Including Veterans—Want Out of Afghanistan

Arlington, VA, October 8, 2018 – Seventeen years since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, a new poll reveals that Americans question the worthiness of the ongoing war there, want the United States to pull troops out of the country, and would like their leaders to exercise more restraint when it comes to getting involved in conflicts around the world. The survey, commissioned by the Charles Koch Institute and RealClearPolitics and conducted by YouGov, found that military veterans were even more likely to hold these views.

“On the 17th anniversary of the U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan—with no end in sight—the U.S. is still spending $45 billion annually in that country. Most sobering, some 2,400 troops have paid the ultimate sacrifice, with 10 times that many having returned home with war wounds,” said David Craig, editor of RealClearDefense. “This poll shows that majority of Americans consider the situation a stalemate, and one lacking a clear strategy for success. Consequently, most respondents believe it is time to draw down, if not completely withdrawal.”

The United States has approximately 15,000 troops stationed in Afghanistan.

According to the survey, 53 percent of Americans, and nearly 60 percent of military veterans, do not think the United States has a clear strategic objective in Afghanistan. Only 15 percent of all respondents and 23 percent of military veterans said the government does have such objectives. Fifty-one percent of respondents say that it either is time to decrease Afghanistan troop levels or to remove all troops from the country in the next 12 months. Even more Americans feel this way when asked about troop levels over the next five years. Fifty-seven percent of Americans, including 69 percent of military veterans, said they would support a decision by the president to remove all troops from Afghanistan.

Americans do not deem the conflict a win for the U.S. Two in three Americans, including 73 percent of military veterans, cannot say the war has been a success. Specifically, 36 percent of Americans, including 40 percent of veterans, said the war has been unsuccessful while 30 percent (33 percent of veterans) said it has been neither successful nor unsuccessful.

While a majority of Americans believe it’s time to get out of Afghanistan, they have mixed feelings about whether engaging in the first place was the right decision. On this point the opinions of military veterans diverges from the general civilian population. More than half of respondents who have served or are serving in the military believe sending troops in 2001 was the correct course of action. Seventy percent of Americans overall, however, do not say it was a good idea to send troops to Afghanistan in 2001.

“After nearly two decades of fighting in Afghanistan, Americans—including veterans—rightly recognize the war has not been going well and that we are strategically adrift,” said William Ruger, vice president of research and policy at the Charles Koch Institute. “It is little wonder that a majority of Americans think we ought to decrease troop levels or even bring all of our forces home. The president should pay more attention to the American people’s realistic take than wishful thinking ‘experts’ who argue we need to stay the course.”

The latest poll found a plurality of Americans, 43 percent, said they think the U.S. military should be less involved in conflicts around the globe. Only 12 percent of all respondents said they thought the military should be more involved.

Military veterans were even more likely to say the United States should practice restraint. Nearly half, 49 percent, said the United States should be less militarily engaged around the world. One-third said the level of engagement should stay at its current level and just 17 percent said the United States should be more engaged.

Americans also are wary of expanding the war in Afghanistan into Pakistan. More than 60 percent, including 69 percent of military veterans, don’t want to see that expansion and a plurality, 46 percent, said the United States should reduce financial support for Pakistan. More than two in three veterans said the United States should cut aid to Pakistan.

Americans’ negative feelings about the war in Afghanistan came without understanding the length of the conflict relative to other wars. Only 44 percent of the American public could accurately say that the war in Afghanistan is now the longest war in U.S. history. Military veterans more accurately estimated the length of America’s conflicts abroad.

 FOR MEDIA INQUIRIES, PLEASE CONTACT:

 ABOUT THE CHARLES KOCH INSTITUTE

For more than five decades, Charles Koch’s philanthropy has inspired bold new ideas to improve American lives. Inspired by a recognition that free people are capable of extraordinary things, the Charles Koch Institute supports education and dialogue to advance these principles and challenge convention. We work to remove barriers to opportunity for all Americans, helping individuals transform their lives. To learn more visit charleskochinstitute.org.

ABOUT REALCLEARPOLITICS

RealClear Media Group (RCMG), led by its flagship brand RealClearPolitics, encompasses 15 specialty areas of coverage, with original reporting from our staff of seasoned reporters, live events, the well-known RCP Poll Average, and original video. With a wide array of news and analysis available online, insiders rely on RealClear’s sites as a go-to source for reporting, commentary, and analysis on all sides of the most pressing issues impacting news and politics.”

ABOUT YOUGOV AND SURVEY METHODOLOGY

The Afghanistan and Military Veteran surveys (which interviewed 1,210 U.S. adults and 613 current and former military personnel, respectively) were both commissioned by the Charles Koch Institute and conducted online by YouGov Plc. between September 25-27, 2018. Data for the Afghanistan survey have been weighted and are representative of U.S. adults (aged 18+). The margin of error for the national sample is +/- 2.9%. For the military sample it is +/- 4.0%.

Full Results

Results From the General Public

If you had to guess, which is the longest war in American history?

  • 44% said the war in Afghanistan.
  • 19% said Vietnam War.
  • 9% said World War II.
  • 9% said Civil War.
  • 8% said Iraq War.
  • 5% said Revolutionary War.
  • 5% said Korean War.
  • 2% said World War I.

Should the U.S. be more or less militarily engaged around the world, or stay about the same?

  • 12% said more.
  • 32% said about the same.
  • 43% said less.
  • 13% said don’t know.

Do you think America’s military involvement in Afghanistan has been successful or unsuccessful?

  • 12% said very unsuccessful.
  • 24% said unsuccessful.
  • 30% said neither successful or unsuccessful.
  • 18% said successful.
  • 3% said very successful.
  • 14% said don’t know.

Looking back, do you think it was a mistake or the correct choice to send U.S. troops to Afghanistan in 2001?

  • 39% said mistake.
  • 30% said correct choice.
  • 31% said not sure.

Do you think the U.S. should increase troops, decrease troops, or remove all troops from Afghanistan in the next year?

  • 7% said increase troops.
  • 18% said keep the troop level the same.
  • 27% said decrease troops.
  • 24% said remove all troops.
  • 24% said don’t know.

Do you think the U.S. should increase troops, decrease troops, or remove all troops from Afghanistan in the next five years?

  • 5% said increase troops.
  • 11% said keep the troop level the same.
  • 24% said decrease troops.
  • 39% said remove all troops.
  • 21% said don’t know.

Should the U.S expand the war in Afghanistan into Pakistan?

  • 8% said yes, the U.S. should expand the war into Pakistan.
  • 62% said no, the U.S. should not expand the war into Pakistan.
  • 31% said don’t know.

Should the United States increase or decrease financial support for Pakistan?

  • 4% said increase.
  • 17% said keep it the same.
  • 46% said decrease.
  • 32% said they did not know.

Do you think the U.S. military should be responsible for ensuring that Afghanistan has a liberal democratic government, one that protects things like fair and open elections for all citizens, equal rights for women, and equal access to education for all?

  • 25% said yes.
  • 44% said no.
  • 31% said they were not sure.

If the central government of Afghanistan in Kabul, the capital, does not have control over all the territory of Afghanistan, does that pose a threat to the safety of the United States?

  • 34% said yes, it does pose a threat.
  • 28% said no, it doesn’t pose a threat.
  • 38% said they did not know.

How strongly do you agree or disagree with the opinion that the U.S. should negotiate with the Taliban to end the war in Afghanistan?

  • 33% said they agree (somewhat or strongly).
  • 37% said they do not agree (somewhat or strongly).
  • 30% said they do not know.

Do you think the United States have a clear strategic objective in Afghanistan?

  • 15% said yes.
  • 53% said no.
  • 32% said they did not know.

If the president authorizes all U.S. troops to be removed from Afghanistan, would you support or oppose that decision?

  • 57% said support (strongly or somewhat).
  • 19% said oppose (strongly or somewhat).
  • 25% did not know.

Results From Military Veterans

If you had to guess, which is the longest war in American history?

  • 62% said the war in Afghanistan.
  • 16% said Vietnam War.
  • 7% said Iraq War.
  • 6% said Korean War.
  • 4% said Civil War.
  • 2% said World War II.
  • 2% said Revolutionary War.
  • 1% said World War I.

Should the United States be more or less militarily engaged around the world, or stay about the same?

  • 17% said more.
  • 33% said about the same.
  • 49% said less.
  • 1% said don’t know.

Do you think America’s military involvement in Afghanistan has been successful or unsuccessful?

  • 12% said very unsuccessful.
  • 28% said unsuccessful.
  • 33% said neither successful or unsuccessful.
  • 21% said successful.
  • 3% said very successful.
  • 2% said don’t know.

Looking back, do you think it was a mistake or the correct choice to send U.S. troops to Afghanistan in 2001?

  • 31% said mistake.
  • 54% said correct choice.
  • 15% said don’t know.

Do you think the U.S. should increase troops, decrease troops, or remove all troops from Afghanistan in the next year?

  • 15% said increase troops.
  • 25% said keep the troop level the same.
  • 19% said decrease troops.
  • 30% said remove all troops.
  • 11% said don’t know.

Do you think the U.S. should increase troops, decrease troops, or remove all troops from Afghanistan in the next five years?

  • 10% said increase troops.
  • 13% said keep the troop level the same.
  • 17% said decrease troops.
  • 47% said remove all troops.
  • 13% said don’t know.

Should the U.S expand the war in Afghanistan into Pakistan?

  • 15% said yes, the U.S. should expand the war into Pakistan.
  • 69% said no, the U.S. should not expand the war into Pakistan.
  • 16% said don’t know.

Should the U.S. increase or decrease financial support for Pakistan?

  • 7% said increase.
  • 14% said keep it the same.
  • 67% said decrease.
  • 12% said they did not know.

Do you think the U.S. military should be responsible for ensuring that Afghanistan has a liberal democratic government, one that protects things like fair and open elections for all citizens, equal rights for women, and equal access to education for all?

  • 24% said yes.
  • 61% said no.
  • 15% said they did not know.

If the central government of Afghanistan in Kabul, the capital, does not have control over all the territory of Afghanistan, does that pose a threat to the safety of the United States?

  • 49% said yes, it does pose a threat.
  • 35% said no, it doesn’t pose a threat.
  • 16% said they did not know.

How strongly do you agree or disagree with the opinion that the U.S. should negotiate with the Taliban to end the war in Afghanistan?

  • 40% said they agree (strongly or somewhat).
  • 51% said they do not agree (strongly or somewhat).
  • 9% said they do not know.

Does the United States have a clear strategic objective in Afghanistan?

  • 23% said yes.
  • 59% said no.
  • 17% said they did not know.

If the president authorizes all U.S. troops to be removed from Afghanistan, would you support or oppose that decision?

  • 69% said support (strongly or somewhat).
  • 21% said oppose (strongly or somewhat).
  • 10% said they did not know.

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