One of the few areas where Barack Obama and Republicans have largely agreed has been prosecuting the war in Afghanistan. Obama ran on the promise to fight the Taliban more robustly, and he has delivered on that promise with escalations in troop commitments and a significant increase in drone attacks across the border into Pakistan. The commitment has created momentum for NATO and for the elected government in Afghanistan, even if other diplomatic issues have created trouble with the latter.
Until now, Obama could count on significant domestic support for continuing the effort in the Af-Pak theater. According to Rasmussen, though, that support has apparently dissipated:
A majority of voters, for the first time, support an immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan or the creation of a timetable to bring them all home within a year.
A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 31% of Likely U.S. Voters now say all troops should be brought home from Afghanistan immediately, while another 21% say a firm timetable should be established to bring all troops home within a year’s time. The combined total of 52% who want the troops home within a year is a nine-point jump from 43% last September. Just 37% felt that way inSeptember 2009.
Only 34% of voters now think there should be no timetable for withdrawal. Fifteen percent (15%) are not sure.
The erosion goes across partisan lines. In September 2009, only 19% of Republicans and 28% of independents wanted troops brought home immediately or within a one-year fixed timetable. Eighteen months later, it’s now 37% of Republicans and 45% of independents. Democrats have also shifted from 61% in September 2009 to 73% in March 2011.
Younger voters drove most of the negatives in 2009, with 61% demanding withdrawal immediately or within a year. In 2011, the demand has actually been reduced among 18-29YOs (51%), but has gone up significantly with all other age groups:
- 30-39: Now 53/32 for withdrawal, was 34/58
- 40-49: Now 49/34, was 30/58
- 50-64: Now 53/35, was 33/55
- 65+: Now 46/35, was 40/41
Obama and his administration had recently been discussing longer-term plans to keep American forces in place through 2014 or beyond. If these numbers continue to erode in an election season, don’t expect Obama to remain that committed to seeing the war through to victory. He’s sacrificed his left flank for two years in order to position himself as a relatively hawkish liberal, but if the center and right abandon the war, Obama will not turn himself into LBJ to keep American forces fighting on the other side of the world.