Digital Journal, April 23, 2020

Op-Ed: 75 percent of US veterans polled want withdrawal from Afghanistan

Just 7 percent thought the US should be more involved

By Ken Hanly

Nearly 75 percent of US veterans and almost 70 percent of their family members support a full withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, a new poll released Wednesday by a conservative activist group shows.

The US has about 13,600 troops in Afghanistan. It has already started withdrawing some under an agreement with the Taliban. Within 135 days they are to withdraw down to 8,600. However, the agreement signed the end of February involved a prisoner swap that the Afghan government has so far refused to honor as it was not a party to the agreement.

The poll was by Concerned Veterans for America

The group has close ties to the conservative Koch network ad the also the Trump administration. The results show an increase in those who want withdraw from the results of an identical survey last year. The group has been leading public efforts to convince lawmakers and the Trump administration to severely cut back military operations.

Nate Anderson executive director of the group said: “I think this shows the fatigue of almost two decades of war. And I think there is increased awareness among the American public about how long we have been fighting.”

The poll

The survey was across the nation and was conducted April 7 to 10. Those polled were about 700 military veterans and about 800 of veterans' family members. All were chosen at random.

About 57 percent of the veterans polled thought that the US should be less involved in military conflicts overseas. This is an increase of about 9 percent from last year's survey. Just 7 percent thought the US should be more involved.

As mentioned for Afghan specifically 73 percent favored a full US withdrawal, with 69 percent of family members having the same opinion. In contrast, the 2019 poll was about 60 percent in favor for each group. Over half of veterans favored full withdrawal very strongly.

Withdrawal from Iraq also favored

71 percent of veterans and 69 percent of military family members supported a full withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. The Iraqi parliament earlier this year passed a resolution that all foreign troops should leave Iraq. However, the US has refused to discussed the matter. Trump even threatened Iraq with severe sanctions if Iraq forces US troops to leave. Although US troops are supposedly there to fight the Islamic State or ISIS the group has been mostly defeated and is in survival mode control of any territory. The US wants to remain to counter Iranian influence.

About two thirds of veterans polled also wanted to see US foreign aid spending reduced. 17 percent even favored an overall decrease in US spending. However twice as many, 34 percent wanted to see an increase.

Group director Anderson said he hoped the poll would dispel some presumptions made about the military community's support for overseas operations and help sway policy makers to move away from more open-ended combat operations.

Trump supports peace deal with the Taliban

Trump has supported the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan as outlined in the February peace deal. However, the deal has been more or less sabotaged by the refusal of the Afghan government to agree to a prisoner swap as outlined in the agreement. Efforts to negotiate the swap with the Afghan government and Taliban have faltered and the Taliban have renewed attacks against the government. As the US defends the government this has involved conflict with the US as well. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that the president Afram Ghani faces a challenger Abdullah Abdullah who also claims the presidency.

Since the conflict began in 2001, 2,300 US military personnel have been killed in Afghanistan.

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