As President Obama prepares to announce his intentions for how many troops to withdraw from Afghanistan this year, public opinion polls show the ground is moving under him. Over the past few days, several new surveys show a significant spike in the number of people who want to see big numbers of troops brought home. The war isn't making us safer and it's not worth the costs, and following bin Laden's death, it's become impossible for the American people to make sense of keeping troops fighting and dying in Afghanistan.
Two separate polls taken on June 3-7 by different firms show a significant shift in public opinion:
- A CBS News poll shows a 16 percent increase in the number of people who think troops levels should be decreased (64 percent, vs. 48 percent last month in the same poll).
- A survey by CNN shows a 9 percent jump compared to last month in the number of people who say the U.S. should withdraw all of its troops.
- The CBS poll also showed that a whopping 73 percent of Americans believe the U.S. should withdraw a "substantial" number of troops from Afghanistan this summer.
These polls show a major move in public opinion as we approach the president's deadline for the start of troop withdrawals; the American people are practically yelling at the White House to get troops home.
The CNN and CBS surveys also put into stark relief just how badly Washington, D.C. politics lag behind U.S. public opinion. None of the numbers bandied about over the past few weeks by public officials come close to being "significant" withdrawals. Senator John McCain says only 3,000 troops should be withdrawn, a paltry number that's even smaller than the 5,000 troops suggested by an unnamed military official several weeks ago. Senator Carl Levin says 15,000 would be a better number, but that number wouldn't even reverse President Obama's first escalation of 17,000 troops, much less the 30,000 he sent in early 2010. Keep in mind, these numbers are in comparison to military force of well over 100,000, not including private security companies. The highest number among these anemic proposals, Levin's 15,000, would leave more than 85 percent of U.S. troops in Afghanistan by the end of this year. That's a fig leaf, not a significant troop withdrawal.
The Afghanistan Study Group's (ASG) proposal comes much closer to the sentiments of the American people. They propose "ceasefires, large troop reductions (30,000 this year, 40,000 in 2012), reformation of the Afghan government, and political negotiations within Afghanistan and amongst its neighbors to stabilize Afghanistan and the region, and to begin to get the United States out of Afghanistan's quicksand."
Note that we say the ASG's proposal only comes closer to the sentiments of the American people. That's because the last time anyone checked, the American people want all troops out within a year.
There's a major groundswell building across the country for ending this war, and as the president prepares to announce his intentions for the Afghanistan War, he better pay attention.