ISLAMABAD – A new U.S. public survey has found that two-thirds of supporters of President Donald Trump “strongly” or “somewhat” support his deal with the Islamist Taliban to extricate the United States from the 19-year war in Afghanistan.
Nearly 60% of supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden also favor the landmark U.S. agreement with the Afghan insurgent group, according to a poll conducted by New York-based Eurasia Group Foundation.
“Ending the war in Afghanistan is extremely popular, and Americans of all political persuasions want to honor the recent agreement,” the foundation noted in its findings released Monday.
The deal signed in February 2020 commits all U.S. troops to leave the South Asian country within 14 months, ending what has become America’s longest war.
In return, the Taliban have agreed to disallow terrorist groups such as al-Qaida to operate in the country and begin peace talks with rival Afghan factions to end decades of hostilities in the country.
Fewer than 10% of those surveyed opposed the accord, while one-third remained neutral.
“Since last year, the portion of respondents who believe the U.S. should stay in Afghanistan until all enemies are defeated has dropped by half — from 30% to 15%,” the survey noted.
The U.S.-Taliban agreement led to the start of much-awaited peace talks on Saturday between insurgent negotiators and interlocutors of the Afghan government.
The dialogue, officially known as intra-Afghan negotiations, is being hosted by Doha, the capital of the gulf state of Qatar, where U.S. and Taliban negotiators sealed their deal.
The dialogue was supposed to start in early March, but disputes over the exchange of thousands of prisoners between the Taliban and the Kabul government, and continued insurgent battlefield attacks, had hampered efforts to push the two sides to the negotiating table.
The United States has reduced its forces in Afghanistan to around 8,600 since signing the deal with the Taliban. The Trump administration has announced the U.S. military presence in the country would be cut to 4,500 by November.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in an interview published Sunday that the military was on track to completely withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by spring of 2021.
“So, 19 years after 9/11, we finally have the Afghans prepared to sit down and have a serious conversation about taking their country forward without all the violence,” Pompeo told Breitbart News.
Former U.S. Vice President Biden supports the withdrawal plan, but he wants the Pentagon to leave a small military force in Afghanistan to counter any threat of terrorism in post-war Afghanistan.
“As we enter the 20th year of the conflict in Afghanistan, the American people appear to have lost patience with an interminable war which has drifted from its original mission, and which appears all but unwinnable,” Mark Hannah, a co-author of the survey, told VOA.
“I think they wisely understand that all the military might in the world can’t easily vanquish amorphous, non-state adversaries, and that America’s continued presence in Afghanistan is neither making Americans safe nor serving some vital national interest,” said Hannah.
Trump has been pushing to close what he describes as America’s “crazy endless wars” to fulfill one of his key campaign promises to bring U.S. soldiers back home.
The U.S. and its allies invaded Afghanistan days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror strikes against the United States that al-Qaida plotted from sanctuaries in Afghanistan being ruled by the Taliban at the time.
The punitive military action dislodged the Taliban from power within a few months, but the group has since waged a deadly insurgency. The Taliban has reestablished control over many Afghan districts and killed tens of thousands of U.S.-backed Afghan forces.
It is estimated that the conflict has killed nearly 160,000 people as of 2019, including combatants from both sides, and Afghan civilians.
More than 2,400 U.S. soldiers have lost their lives, and more than 20,000 have been wounded. The war has cost Washington nearly a trillion dollars.
Source: Voice of America