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New Afghanistan Poll Shows Split on Escalation

On the heels of CNN’s poll from Monday, The Washington Post finds a near-even split on a second troop escalation in Afghanistan this year, with 49 percent opposed and 47 percent in favor. “Most on both sides hold their views ‘strongly,’” the paper’s write-up notes.

The partisan divide in previous polls — a poll this summer found 70 percent of GOPers in favor of the war; and roughly the same percentage of Democrats opposed — has closed somewhat, but not in a manner favorable to President Obama.

The sharpest drop in support for Obama’s work on Afghanistan has come among Republicans. In September, a bare majority of party members, 51 percent, approved of his performance on this issue; in the new poll, that support has plummeted to 22 percent, with 71 percent opposed.

Who could have foreseen that? Additionally, self-identified independents are narrowly divided on the question of escalation (50 percent opposed, 47 percent in favor), but look at the numbers on a wholesale change in strategy:

The new poll revealed little public interest in redefining the goal: Four in five Americans say U.S. policy should aim to prevent all elements of the Taliban from regaining power in Afghanistan, even if certain segments of the movement do not support terrorism against the United States. About two-thirds of those polled place a “high priority” on stopping the Taliban from taking over, and just as many prioritize guarding against new al-Qaeda camps. On these questions, there are minimal differences across party lines.

Andrew Exum wrote yesterday, sensibly, that such a scenario is unlikely, but still.

Oh, and that CNN poll Monday, the one that found 52 percent believe Afghanistan is another Vietnam? Not replicated in The Post’s sample. “About a third in the Post-ABC News poll said they agreed with that assessment,” The Post reports.

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