Voters back Obama on Afghanistan surge

A majority of US voters support President Barack Obama’s decision to send an additional 17,000 troops to Afghanistan and give him high marks on his handling of foreign policy, according to a poll released yesterday.

But the survey showed public opinion divided over whether Obama should heed a request from the military commander in Afghanistan for another 13,000 troops.

The Quinnipiac University poll said 67% of those surveyed backed Obama’s announcement last month to deploy extra troops and 31 % were opposed.

And only 47% said Obama should endorse a request by commanders for a further 13,000 troops, with 43% against.

By a margin of 48% to 35%, Americans think US troops should go after Taliban or Al Qaeda forces that cross the border from Afghanistan into Pakistan or operate out of Pakistan, the poll showed.

But if the Pakistani government opposes the cross-border strikes, then 49% of voters oppose the attacks with 37 % in favour.

Americans also approve of the way Obama is managing the country’s foreign policy by a margin of 56-21%, the poll said, with 78% of Democratic voters and 51% of independent voters in support.

Republicans, however, disapprove of his foreign policy performance by a margin of 43% to 31%, according to the poll.

But Obama’s most enthusiastic supporters – younger voters, women, blacks, Hispanics and those making less than $50,000 a year – are opposed to sending more reinforcements beyond the 17,000 that Obama has approved.

Obama last month approved the additional 17,000 troops to bolster the 38,000-strong force fighting an increasingly violent insurgency in Afghanistan.

The decision was in response to a standing request from the commander of US forces in Afghanistan, General David McKiernan, who has asked for about 30,000 troops for the Afghan mission.

At this point, Americans seem willing to support President Obama in his effort to win the war in Afghanistan,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

“But, clearly, they are wary about too much American involvement there and if Obama’s support erodes it seems more likely to come from those who are generally in his corner.”

A majority of 60% think the 2003 US invasion of Iraq was the wrong thing to do while 58% back the decision to go to war in Afghanistan in 2001, with 36% opposed.

Republicans and independent voters are more supportive of the war in Afghanistan than Democrats, according to the survey, with 78 % of Republicans and 61% of independents saying they think the war was a good idea.

Only 42% of Democrats said the Afghan war was a good decision for the US.

The poll, conducted from February 25 to March 2, surveyed 2,573 voters with a margin of error of 1.9 percentage points.

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