Can the US win a war that many regard as a mistake?

August 31, 2017, 3:30 PM GMT+0

More Americans oppose sending more troops to Afghanistan and disapprove of the President's handling of the matter

The war in Afghanistan was originally greeted with widespread support by the American public: fewer than one in ten believed the US invasion, begun just a few months after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and meant to combat the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, was a mistake at the time. But after more than 15 years and the involvement of three US Presidents, there is a lot less support.

In the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, President Trump’s decision to send more troops gets a negative reaction from Americans, who may simply be weary of war. He receives a negative evaluation for his overall handling of the war.

Republicans continue their support for Trump’s handling of Afghanistan. 60% of Republicans approve and only 16% disapprove.

Today, as many people think sending troops to Afghanistan was a mistake as think it wasn’t. Republicans think better of the decision to invade even today: 47% of Republicans don’t think sending troops to Afghanistan was a mistake, while 31% do. The war in Afghanistan isn’t seen as the mistake in the way Americans view both the Vietnam war and the invasion of Iraq in 2003. For each of those wars, about half now call them a mistake, while less than a third disagree.

The problem with public reaction to actions of any kind in Afghanistan today may be two-fold. Only 18% of the public believe the U.S. is currently winning the war there. Half aren’t sure what to think. Even Republicans, who have been more supportive of the war throughout, are divided on whether the U.S. is winning or losing.

But second is a lack of belief that there is a plan for what the U.S. will do in Afghanistan – a problem that Barack Obama faced during his term and that President Trump faces now. By two to one, the public believes Trump lacks a clear plan for U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. Republicans are positive, though one in five Republicans don’t see a clear strategy from the President either.

President Trump never served in the military, but most Americans think this shouldn’t be a factor in judging his ability to handle foreign policy and military strategy. By more than two to one, the public thinks that a president who has not personally served in the military can still be an effective Commander-in-Chief. But many don’t have confidence in President Trump’s ability.

The President’s foreign policy problems extend far beyond Afghanistan. By 47% to 35%, Americans disapprove of how Donald Trump is handling foreign policy overall.