Most Americans say Afghanistan war was not worth fighting

Advancing the rights of Afghan women is still viewed as an important US foreign policy goal, poll shows

Afghans gather near Kabul airport hoping to flee the country after the Taliban returned to power in 2021. AFP
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Most Americans believe the US war in Afghanistan was not worth fighting, according to a new poll.

While 46 per cent of respondents to the AP-NORC poll believe the US was successful in holding accountable the perpetrators of the September 11, 2001 attacks, only 16 per cent think the US succeeded in developing a functional government.

Two-thirds of Americans say the war in Afghanistan was not worth fighting; 65 per cent of Democrats and 63 per cent of Republicans agree on that evaluation.

The poll was conducted with The Pearson Institute for the Study and Resolution of Global Conflicts at the University of Chicago and released on Wednesday.

Only 22 per cent of respondents believe the US helped improve opportunities for Afghan women.

“The findings show that few think the US succeeded during the war in improving opportunities for Afghan women, but most still view advancing the rights of Afghan women as an important foreign policy goal,” said Sheila Kohanteb, Forum Executive Director at The Pearson Institute for Study and Resolution of Global Conflict.

The Taliban has significantly curtailed women's rights since it returned to power during the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021.

Women have been banned from attending university, going to public spaces and working at non-government organisations.

Nearly three-quarters of respondents believed it was at least “somewhat important” to advance the rights of Afghan women and girls, the poll found.

“The public clearly believes the US should try to help improve the situation of Afghan women, and many continue to hear about the restrictions being placed on women in Afghanistan,” Ms Kohanteb said in a news release.

Additionally, few Americans believe the US successfully developed a functioning Afghan government or eliminated “the threat posed by Islamic extremists”. Meanwhile, 83 per cent see Afghanistan either “as an enemy” or “unfriendly”.

The AP-NORC poll – conducted in September – showed no clear consensus on what foreign policy role the US should play. Respondents who believe the US should take a more active role in international affairs were more likely to consider US foreign policy goals in Afghanistan as important.

The poll comes as President Joe Biden's administration scrambles to respond to the unfolding crisis in the Middle East after Hamas launched a surprise assault on Israel on October 7. Israel responded by bombarding the densely populated Gaza.

Updated: October 18, 2023, 6:27 PM