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The Public Opinion Wages of Decoupling Afghanistan From al-Qaeda

Reading The Washington Post’s write-up of Adm. Mullen’s call for a second U.S. troop deployment in Afghanistan this year, this poll figure stands out: the

Jul 31, 2020
Reading The Washington Post’swrite-upof Adm. Mullen’s call for a second U.S. troop deployment in Afghanistan this year, this poll figure stands out: the country is about split on the strategic importance of the war.
Picture 3
Picture 3
It’s not news that support for the Afghanistan war is eroding. Nor does the poll define what “winning” and “success” mean, which diminishes the substanceof what the poll finds to practically nil. But as a barometric measure, the poll indicates that a substantial percentage of the public has decoupled the Afghanistan war from the broader struggle against al-Qaeda. That struggle is the foundational justification for the war in the first place.
Back in March, when he unveiled his strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, President Obama said the goal was to “disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to prevent their return to either country in the future.” He elaborated by saying that achieving that end, in Afghanistan, required a counterinsurgency approach. His senior aides, who devised the strategy, were explicit about it. But in recent months, and particularly since June, when Gen. Stanley McChrystal described his view of the war to Congress, the administration has emphasized the counterinsurgency aspects of the war, like bolstering Afghan governmental and economic capacity, while conceding— honestly — that al-Qaeda itself maintains a minimal direct presence in Afghanistan. That can seem a lot like mission creep. And that, in turn, can cause the public to wonder why an eight-year war of marginal relevance to the core concern — destroying al-Qaeda — in which the U.S. keeps losing ground ought to get more troops devoted to it.
One other thing from The Post. Notice this quote:
“I want to hear from the president, and not just on combat troops,” Sen. Ted Kaufman (D-Del.) said in an interview. “Combat troops is like the public option” in health care, he said, quoting a conversation with Levin this month when they traveled together to Afghanistan. “Everybody can understand combat troops.”
Kaufman is Vice President Biden’s handpicked successorto that Delaware senate seat and Biden’s trusted longtime aide. That quote is sure to carry weight in the White House and be interpreted as Biden giving a public nudge to his boss.
Hajra Shannon

Hajra Shannon

Hajra Shannona is a highly experienced journalist with over 9 years of expertise in news writing, investigative reporting, and political analysis. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Journalism from Columbia University and has contributed to reputable publications focusing on global affairs, human rights, and environmental sustainability. Hajra's authoritative voice and trustworthy reporting reflect her commitment to delivering insightful news content. Beyond journalism, she enjoys exploring new cultures through travel and pursuing outdoor photography
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