Afghanistan: Both Bush and Obama have handled war poorly

January 23, 2014, 10:00 AM GMT+0

Most Americans think that Presidents Bush and Obama have handled the Afghanistan War badly, and the public tends to think that the war was a mistake.

As America winds down its troop numbers in Afghanistan, powerful figures from the Afghanistan War have begun to reveal the inside story of the war and Obama's 'surge' in 2009. In his memoirs, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates criticized the Obama administration for allegedly being more focused on getting American troops out of the country than on winning the war. The war has been America's longest fought, with the first US attack on the Taliban taking place in October 2001 under President George Bush, though in light of the Afghan government's reluctance to sign a new security agreement, 2014 could be the year where all US and Western troops finally leave the country.

The latest research from YouGov shows that the public makes little distinction between the two administrations when it comes to Afghanistan, with most of the public (53%) disapproving of each administration's handling of the Afghanistan War. This conceals strong partisan differences, however, as Republicans (80%) overwhelmingly disapprove of Obama's handling while Democrats (70%) widely disapprove of Bush's handling. When asked about the Iraq War, attitudes were similar, though people are marginally more likely to disapprove of President Bush's (56%) than President Obama's (51%) handling of the Iraq War.

Asked whether it was a mistake to send US troops to fight in Afghanistan, 42% of the public say that it was, while 39% say that it wasn't. When this question was first asked during the first serious discussions of an troops surge in August 2009, 49% of the public said that it was not a mistake to fight in Afghanistan while 31% said that it was.

If Obama was, as Gates alleges, focused more on ending the war than winning it, this be in line with opinions among Democrats on the war. Democrats (48%) and Independents (45%) are much more likely than Republicans (28%) to say that the war was a mistake, while most Republicans (57%) say that it was not.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has publicly begun to distance himself from the West and while he condemned a recent Taliban attack on a Kabul restaurant popular with Westerners, he also took the occasion to condemn US policy, saying that the US has not been successful and has not fully cooperated with the Afghans.

Full poll results can be found here.

Image: Getty

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