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A Year After Withdrawal, 50% Call Afghanistan War a Mistake

A Year After Withdrawal, 50% Call Afghanistan War a Mistake

Story Highlights

  • Half think U.S. action in Afghanistan was a mistake, statistically unchanged
  • 46% say it was not a mistake for U.S. to send troops to Afghanistan
  • 58% of Democrats, 53% of independents, 37% of Republicans call it a mistake

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- One year after the chaotic withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, 50% of Americans say the U.S. made a mistake in sending troops to the country, while 46% say it did not. This close division of views is similar to two readings last year -- one taken before the withdrawal was complete and one afterward -- as well as in February 2014. At all other times since the start of the war in 2001, a majority of Americans thought that going to Afghanistan was not a mistake.


The Afghanistan War, which began as a direct result of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, ultimately claimed the lives of more than 2,400 U.S. service members, resulted in injury to more than 20,000 U.S. troops and cost the U.S. more than $2 trillion.

Shortly after the war began in October 2001, the U.S. public largely supported it, and in early 2002, a record-high 93% of Americans said it was not a mistake to have sent troops to Afghanistan. Support for sending troops to Afghanistan gradually shrank to a bare majority by 2010. In 2014, Gallup found the public equally as likely to say it was a mistake as to say it was not, although attitudes reverted to being positive on balance in 2015 and 2019.

Democrats Still More Likely Than Republicans to Say War Was Mistake

About one month after then-President George W. Bush ordered the first attacks on Afghanistan by U.S. troops, the effort enjoyed broad bipartisan support. Yet by 2004, 41% of Democrats considered the war in Afghanistan a mistake, and 26% of independents agreed, compared with 11% of Republicans.

Since then, Democrats and independents have been far more likely than Republicans to say the U.S. had made a mistake by sending troops. Majorities of Democrats -- including 58% in the current survey, conducted Aug. 1-23 -- have deemed the action a mistake since 2013. Majorities of independents, including 53% today, have said the same since July 2021.

In August 2021, the U.S. military's exit from Afghanistan, ordered by President Joe Biden, was marred by the Taliban's quick takeover of most of the country and suicide bombings at the airport in Kabul, which killed 13 U.S. service members. In a poll conducted after those events, 28% of Republicans said the war was a mistake. But now, about a year later, that figure has risen nine percentage points to 37%.


Bottom Line

Since the flawed withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan last August after a 20-year engagement, Afghanistan finds itself ensnared in economic and humanitarian crises. Gallup polling in Afghanistan has found record-high suffering among Afghans. Gallup has also found that the broad majority of Americans view Afghanistan unfavorably. Still, the public remains split over whether U.S. military involvement in the country was a mistake.

Gallup polls gauging Americans' perceptions of previous wars, including in Iraq, Vietnam and Korea, have found majorities describing each as a mistake at some point. This is still not the case with respect to Afghanistan, but the 50% who say so now is the highest yet.

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