Two recent news reports show the widening rift between US military leaders in Afghanistan — specifically General David Petraeus — and the American public.
First, the Associate Press conducted a poll that showed that 58% of Americans oppose the Afghan war. Second, the New York Times reported that General Petraeus may push back against President Obama’s stated goal of beginning to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan in July 2011, because Petraeus believes the Afghan war is winnable. President Obama may have to remind General Petraeus that hey both work for the American people.
Excerpts of both stories below.
Nearly 6 In 10 Americans Oppose The War In Afghanistan (POLL)
By Glen Johnson, Associated Press, Aug 21, 2010
LAWRENCE, Mass. — A majority of Americans see no end in sight in Afghanistan, and nearly six in 10 oppose the nine-year-old war as President Barack Obama sends tens of thousands more troops to the fight, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.
With just over 10 weeks before nationwide elections that could define the remainder of Obama’s first term, only 38 percent say they support his expanded war effort in Afghanistan — a drop from 46 percent in March. Just 19 percent expect the situation to improve during the next year, while 29 percent think it will get worse. Some 49 percent think it will remain the same.
The growing frustration with the Afghanistan war was evident in Massachusetts’ 5th Congressional District, not far from Concord where Minutemen fought for a new nation in 1775. In Lawrence, whose textile mills once relied on the roaring Merrimack River, exasperation with the war in Afghanistan is evident.
“If they could resolve the issue, stabilize the government, that would be good. But we can’t do this forever and lose more lives,” said Terry Landers, 53, an electrician from North Andover.
U.S. troops have suffered more than 1,100 deaths in Afghanistan since fighting began in October 2001, including a monthly record of 66 in July. Last fall, Obama authorized an increase in the force in Afghanistan by 30,000 to 100,000 troops – triple the level from 2008. Many in Congress are increasingly doubtful that the military effort can succeed without a tough campaign against bribery and graft that have eroded the Afghan people’s trust in their government.
The war views expressed in a Lawrence diner, in a park across from City Hall and at an Essex Street hot dog cart, were echoed by poll participants across the country.
Bea Boynton, 57, of Marysville, Pa., said she is less supportive of the wars than when Obama took office.
“I just think it’s not going well. Too many of our men and women are being killed,” she said of Afghanistan in particular.
Boynton, a registered Democrat who voted for Republican John McCain in 2008, added: “I don’t think what we initially set out to do has been done. I mean, we still don’t have (Osama) bin Laden.”
[Read entire story]
Petraeus Opposes a Rapid Pullout in Afghanistan
By Dexter Filkins, New York Times, Aug 15, 2010
KABUL, Afghanistan — Gen. David H. Petraeus, the commander of American and NATO forces, began a campaign on Sunday to convince an increasingly skeptical public that the American-led coalition can still succeed here despite months of setbacks, saying he had not come to Afghanistan to preside over a “graceful exit.”
In an hourlong interview with The New York Times, the general argued against any precipitous withdrawal of forces in July 2011, the date set by President Obama to begin at least a gradual reduction of the 100,000 troops on the ground. General Petraeus said that it was only in the last few weeks that the war plan had been fine-tuned and given the resources that it required. “For the first time,” he said, “we will have what we have been working to put in place for the last year and a half.”
In another of a series of interviews, on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” General Petraeus even appeared to leave open the possibility that he would recommend against any withdrawal of American forces next summer.
The statement offered a preview of what promised to be an intense political battle over the future of the American-led war in Afghanistan, which has deteriorated on the ground and turned unpopular at home. Already, some Democrats in Congress are pushing for steep withdrawals early on, while supporters of the war say that a rapid draw-down could endanger the Afghan mission altogether.
“The president didn’t send me over here to seek a graceful exit,” General Petraeus said at his office at NATO headquarters in downtown Kabul. “My marching orders are to do all that is humanly possible to help us achieve our objectives.”
[Read entire story]
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