Public support for keeping U.S. forces in Afghanistan has fallen to a new low. A new poll from the Pew Research Center finds among the all important swing voters, over half, 59 percent, favor withdrawing from Afghanistan as soon as possible. Swing voters make up 23 percent of registered voters.
The numbers in favor of a withdrawal draw even higher among voters who say they will support President Obama’s re-election. Sixty-five percent of Obama supporters say they would favor a quick withdrawal from Afghanistan and Republican voters are also leaning towards removing U.S. troops with 48 percent of Mitt Romney supporters favoring a troop pullout as soon as possible. Only 46 percent of Romney supporters and 28 percentof Obama supporters reported they would favor keeping U.S. forces in Afghanistan until the security situation stabilizes.
Results from the April Pew poll reflected a record-low support for keeping U.S. troops in Afghanistan as the U.S. public tires of the decade long war and recent Taliban attacks and U.S. atrocities against Afghan civilians. A new incident made headlines this week when photographs of U.S. soldiers posing with bodies of dead insurgents were published by the Los Angeles Times.
Overall, public opinion on the war has turned more negative in the past month. Since March, the percentage of poll respondents describing the U.S. military’s efforts in Afghanistan as going “very/fairly well” has dropped from 51 percent to 38 percent.
The U.S. public’s war weariness appears to be having an impact on the presidential campaigns where Mitt Romney, who had previously criticized Obama’s war policy as “misguided and naïve” for announcing plans to hand over primary combat responsibility to Afghan forces next year, has accepted, in large part, the White House’s troop drawdown strategy.
Romney now says that he wants to bring troops home as soon as possible but only when “our general think it’s O.K.” or “as soon as that mission in complete.” In an email to the New York Times, a Romney aide acknowledged that despite the campaign’s frequent criticisms of the White House’s 2014 target for a complete U.S. withdrawal, “Pending full review of conditions on the ground, Governor Romney would abide by the 2014 target for transitioning combat operations recommended by the military commanders.”