2008 record      


Americans are more supportive of the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan compared to the prevailing public sentiment for the effort in the United Kingdom.

The latest IBD/TIPP Poll of 916 Americans conducted last week posed the same questions used by a poll of U.K voters conducted by ComRes, between July 24 and 26 for The Independent, a British newspaper.

IBD/TIPP shows that only a small segment of Americans (31%) believes that U.S. troops should be withdrawn immediately from Afghanistan; an overwhelming majority (64%) believes they should stay.

This is in sharp contrast to the U.K. poll in which a majority of U.K voters (52%) believed British troops should be pulled out immediately from Afghanistan with 43% saying they should stay.

By U.S. party, 47% of Democrats want immediate withdrawal, and 48% don't. Only 20% Republicans support immediate withdrawal; 75% believe they should stay. Independents echoed sentiments similar to Republicans, with 21% for immediate withdrawal and 72% against it.

One reason for the lack of public support in the U.K. is that the public believes that the Afghan War is "unwinnable." But in the U.S, Americans are divided about the outcome.

The Independent poll showed that a majority of U.K. voters (58%) believes that the war is unwinnable. In the IBD/TIPP survey, Americans are narrowly divided, with 42% believing that the war is not winnable and 44% believing that it is.

Democrats are gloomier on the outcome (51% unwinnable to 34% winnable) while Republicans (33% to 53%) and Independents (41% to 50%) are more upbeat.

President Obama has identified upcoming elections on Aug. 20 as the most important test of Afghanistan's political progress this year. To ensure smooth elections, the president has boosted the troop levels.

Taliban militants have said they plan to disrupt the poll. According to the United Nations, insurgent violence and threats have hurt preparation for Afghanistan's election and might discourage large numbers of Afghans from voting.

The number of Western troops in Afghanistan tops 100,000. The U.S. contributes the largest share with about 62,000 troops and plans to increase it to 68,000 by year's end. At the end of 2008, the U.S. had 32,000 troops. Britain has 9,000 troops now.

In coming weeks, the U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of all U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, will present a strategy review on how to turn the war in Afghanistan around. Many experts believe he may ask for more troops at that time.

As of Sunday, at least 694 members of the U.S. military had died in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan as a result of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, according to the Defense Department. Of those, 522 died in hostile action.

July was the war's worst month. The U.S. lost at least 41 troops, surpassing the previous highest monthly toll of 26 in September last year. Britain lost 22 troops. The total number of British casualties so far is 196.

The rise in the number of British casualties has triggered questions about the adequacy of supplies, the time frame in Afghanistan and if U.K. troops should be there at all.

Policymakers on both sides of the Atlantic are calling for more NATO participation.

David Milibrand, the U.K. Foreign Secretary, recently called for other NATO allies to take a greater share of the burden.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said on CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday said that it was too early to tell whether he would support sending more troops to Afghanistan. He believed that a lot of the other NATO allies have fallen short of their commitment and that we are going to put maximum pressure on them.

A Washington Post story on Sunday quoted military experts believing that additional resources are necessary. It also said the experts feared that the public has not been made aware of the significant commitments that come with Washington's new policies.

Both U.S and U.K. share one thing in common. Public opinion in both countries does not support sending more troops. In the U.S., majority opposes sending troops by a margin of 51% to 37%. In the U.K it is more pronounced at 60% to 35%.

Most Democrats (61%) don't favor sending in more American troops. Only 29% are in favor of such a surge. Republicans favor sending in more troops by 48% to 41%. More Independents (46%) oppose sending more troops than favor (41%).

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has been under intense pressure and has faced accusations from politicians and military commanders of sending troops to the frontline without adequate support.

The recent discourse in the U.S. has focused mainly on the hotly debated health care reform and has somewhat relegated the war in Afghanistan. However, nearly one-half (49%) believe American troops lack the equipment they need to perform their role safely in Afghanistan, compared with 75% for the U.K.

Mayur is president of TechnoMetrica Market Intelligence, which directs the IBD/TIPP Poll that was the most accurate in the last two presidential elections.

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