Most Americans want to leave Afghanistan soon, and only one in five want US troops to stay there "as long as it takes" to finish the job
On Tuesday President Obama announced that a small force of US troops would remain in Afghanistan until 2016. The US withdrawal from Afghanistan is proceeding quickly, with troop levels down to 36,000 from 101,000 two years ago. By the end of this year there will be only 9,800 American troops in Afghanistan, and number that will slowly dwindle until 2016 when the only troops left in the country will be military liason officers and embassy guards. The war has been America's longest and has claimed the lives of 2,313 Americans.
The latest research from YouGov shows that most Americans (67%) support withdrawing most Americans troops by the end of this year: 35% want to speed up the current timetable, while 31% want to stick to the current plans. Only 20% want American troops to stay in Afghanistan for however long it takes to accomplish the goals of the American mission.
Staying for as long as needed is the most popular single option among Republicans (37%), but overall 53% of Republicans support withdrawing from Afghanistan even if America's goals haven't been accomplished.
Even if the public supports withdrawing from Afghanistan, they certainly don't think that the 'War on Terror' is over. Asked if the US has won the War on Terror, 75% of Americans say that we haven't – because the war is still going on. Only 6% think that the US has won the War on Terror, while 10% say that the US has lost the fight against terrorism.
American public opinion may solidly favor a speedy withdrawal from Afghanistan, but attitudes are more divided about whether or not it was a mistake to send troops to fight in Afghanistan in the first place. 40% say that it was a mistake, while 36% say that it wasn't. This is largely unchanged over the past couple of years, though as recently as mid-2011 Americans tended to say that the war was not a mistake.