A majority of Americans believe the US will leave Afghanistan without winning

March 10, 2020, 1:00 PM GMT+0

After 18 years of entanglement in Afghanistan, the United States has made an agreement to cease fighting and begin withdrawing troops.

Americans, in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll (conducted as the Taliban-United States agreement was going into effect), support the peace deal with the Taliban 41 percent to 16 percent, but it appears that is primarily because Americans are tired of the long war, many think of as a mistake, and one that the US was not winning.

When the United States invaded Afghanistan, shortly after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, support for the war was high. A Princeton Survey Research Associates poll in November 2001 found nearly nine in 10 (89%) Americans approved of the US military action in Afghanistan. But that was more than 18 years ago. Today, a plurality (44%) of Americans say the engagement in Afghanistan was a mistake.

Republicans—whose party held the presidency when the war commenced— are much less likely to describe the war in Afghanistan as a mistake, though more than a quarter (29%) do. But Republicans share the pessimistic view that the United States won’t win the war and will leave Afghanistan without victory. Overall, two-thirds of all adults and a majority of Republicans don’t expect the US to win.

For most Americans, Taliban actions today are not likely to be seen with great urgency. One in 10 (10%) calls the Taliban America’s greatest foe, but even more name Russia (22%), China (19%) and North Korea (14%). About one in 10 Americans (11%) cite Iran.

Despite years of US military actions in support of the Afghan government, Americans don’t think of the country as friendly. Nearly two out of three regards Afghanistan as either unfriendly or as an enemy. Only one in 10 call it an ally or a friendly country.

Trump hopes to bring most of the US combat troops now in Afghanistan home in 2020. But many Americans are skeptical about his strategy. A plurality (43%) disapprove of his handling of Afghanistan, while 37 percent approve. Nearly half doubt that President Trump has a clear plan for America’s strategy in Afghanistan.

Read the full toplines and tables results from this week’s Economist/YouGov poll

Image: Getty