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Support for Afghanistan withdrawal drops 20 points after Taliban takeover, poll finds

Soldiers board a UH-60 Blackhawk for a resupply mission to an outpost north of Kandahar, Afghanistan. (Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

A new poll found support for U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan has plummeted during the Taliban’s takeover of the country.

The Politico/Morning Consult poll found support for withdrawal dropped 20 percentage points since April, when President Joe Biden said the U.S. would be out of Afghanistan by Sept. 11, and that a plurality of voters think withdrawal should stop. The poll also found over half of respondents disapprove of Biden’s handling of Afghanistan.

The poll of 1,999 registered voters was conducted Aug. 13-16. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 points.

It follows the collapse of the Afghan government to the Taliban two weeks ahead of Biden’s accelerated Aug. 31 deadline to withdraw all remaining troops, which he announced in July, and nearly two decades after a U.S.-led invasion into the country ousted the Taliban from power.

The Taliban has been quickly regaining control of Afghanistan — seizing Kabul, the country’s capital, on Sunday and forcing Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to flee the country and the U.S. to evacuate its embassy in the city.

On Monday, Afghans flooded the airport in Kabul in an attempt to escape the country. Some were seen clinging to the side of a U.S. military airplane before it took off and falling as it gained altitude, the Associated Press reported.

Support for withdrawal

The poll found 49% of registered voters surveyed strongly or somewhat support Biden’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan, down from 69% in an April poll. An additional 37% said they strongly or somewhat oppose the withdrawal, up from 16% in April.

Support for withdrawal dropped among voters in both major political parties.

Among Democrats polled, 69% support withdrawal, down from 84% in April, and 19% oppose it. Meanwhile, 31% of Republicans support withdrawal, down from 52% in April, and 58% oppose it.

The poll also found pluralities of voters think the U.S. shouldn’t continue to withdraw troops in certain cases.

Forty-five percent said the U.S. should not still withdraw if it means the Taliban regains control of most of Afghanistan, and 38% said it should continue the withdrawal. An additional 48% said the U.S. should not withdraw and 35% said it should if it “creates an opening for Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups to establish operations,” the poll found.

Biden’s handling of Afghanistan

The poll found 7% of voters think Afghanistan withdrawal is going “very well,” while 18% think it is going “somewhat well.” An additional 26% say it is going “not too well,” and 31% say it is going “not well at all.”

When asked about Biden’s handling of Afghanistan, 11% of voters said they strongly approve and 20% said they somewhat approve. An additional 15% said they “somewhat disapprove,” and 36% said they “strongly disapprove.”

But approval broke down along party lines.

Fifty-two percent of Democratic voters said they strongly or somewhat approve of Biden’s handling of Afghanistan, while 27% said they strongly or somewhat disapprove. Among Republican voters, 9% said they strongly or somewhat approve, and 81% said they strongly or somewhat disapprove.

Officials in Biden’s administration have said Afghan forces fell to the Taliban quicker than expected.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan said Monday on NBC’s “Today” show that the “speed with which cities fell was much greater than anyone anticipated” and put blame on Afghan forces.

“At the end of the day, despite the fact that we spent 20 years and tens of billions of dollars to give the best equipment, the best training and the best capacity to the Afghan national security forces, we could not give them the will,” Sullivan said.

Biden has also defended his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

On Monday, he spoke on the situation, saying there was “never a good time to withdraw U.S. forces” and pointing to a deal negotiated with the Taliban by former President Donald Trump to withdraw U.S. forces by May 1.

“There was only the cold reality of either following through on the agreement to withdraw our forces or escalating the conflict and sending thousands more American troops back into combat in Afghanistan, lurching into the third decade of conflict,” Biden said.


(c) 2021 The News & Observer

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.