At least 6 in 10 Expect Neither Victory Nor Democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan

May 19, 2011, 5:00 PM GMT+0

Although the United States has spent nearly a decade fighting in Afghanistan — and nearly as long in Iraq — American believe both wars won’t be won, and in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll, majorities want to decrease U.S. troop strength in both places. 

Although they are even more pessimistic about the outcome in Afghanistan as they are about the end result in Iraq, Americans are unwilling to say that war was a mistake, something a majority believes about the Iraq invasion. And while most want to decrease troop strength in both countries (68% want to reduce the number of troops in Iraq, 60% in Afghanistan), by more than four to one they say that if the U.S. leaves Afghanistan, the Taliban will return to power. Part of the reason Americans may be willing to simply withdraw is that they have little confidence in the government — and the people — in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Majorities say that Iraq and Afghanistan are neither U.S. allies nor friendly to the U.S. — 56% call Iraq unfriendly or an enemy; even more, 64%, say that about Afghanistan. 

Although Americans believe the people in both countries — Iraqi and Afghan civilians – are better off today than they were before the American invasions, most don’t think those civilians like Americans or want them in their countries. Instead, Americans believe that most people in both countries have unfavorable opinions about the United States. Only one in five believes most Iraqis have favorable opinions about this country and even fewer believe most Afghans do. 

Many also believe that the people of Iraq and Afghanistan want American troops to leave. Americans are unconvinced that stable democracies will emerge in these countries, though they are somewhat more hopeful about that possibility in Iraq. One in three expects a stable democracy will eventually occur there, while fewer than one in five believes that about Afghanistan. 

Approval of the President’s handling of these two wars rose after the killing of Osama bin Laden — and now appears to be sliding slowly backwards. However, approval of the President’s handling of the war in Afghanistan remains nine points above what it was in late April. But approval of his handling of the war in Iraq is now just three points higher. 

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