As public support for the decade-long war in Afghanistan continues to wane, 72 percent of Americans generally endorse President Obama’s plan to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, according to a Gallup poll released Wednesday. But when it comes to the nitty-gritty of the plan’s timing, Americans are divided into nearly equal thirds over whether the withdrawal’s timetable is just right, too quick, or too slow.
In his prime-time speech on June 22, Obama announced his plan to bring home 10,000 troops by the end of the year. Obama plans to pull out the remaining 23,000 surge forces by no later than next September -- several months sooner than expected.
Obama was under increasing pressure from his liberal base and some Republican lawmakers to reduce the costs of the war in Afghanistan and prepare for a significant reduction in troops this summer. The death of Osama bin Laden also fueled calls in Congress to start bringing the increasingly unpopular war to a close. With only 23 percent of Americans saying they opposed the plan, the Gallup poll indicates that Obama succeeded in satisfying public opinion.
A significant majority of Obama’s Democratic base (87 percent) and independents (74 percent) said they supported the plan overall. Half of Republicans were broadly in favor of Obama’s plan.
Even so, “scratching beneath the surface, the poll also suggests he did not go far enough to fully satisfy Democrats' and independents' desire for a swift withdrawal,” according to the poll’s summary. When asked about the specific timeline of the withdrawal plan, only 30 percent of the 1,034 adults participating in the random-sample survey endorsed Obama’s timetable. Thirty-three percent would have preferred a quicker withdrawal, and 31 percent said no timetable should be set to allow for security conditions to stabilize.
While Democrats are the most supportive of Obama’s timetable, only 45 percent said they agreed with it. Forty percent of Democrats said they preferred an accelerated drawdown.
On the other side of the spectrum, only 19 percent of Republicans supported the timetable. A slight majority (54 percent) said no timetable should be set for the withdrawal plan, and 20 percent said they would like to see the troops pull out quicker.
The poll was conducted on June 25 and 26 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
In National Journal’s instant poll of defense and foreign policy experts conducted within 15 minutes after Obama’s speech, Insiders were equally divided over whether Obama’s nearer term goal of withdrawing 10,000 troops by the end of the year would give the military enough time to accomplish its goals during the spring fighting season. The notorious offensive launched by militants in the hot spring and summer months usually lasts through October. A narrow majority said withdrawing all 33,000 surge troops by the end of next summer risks jeopardizing recent gains, while nearly 30 percent said it strikes the right balance.