President Donald Trump recently announced his intention to take drastic steps towards bringing troops home from both Syria and Afghanistan. In the light of this announcement, the Charles Koch Institute partnered with YouGov to understand how Americans view the prospect of withdrawing our military presence in these regions.
The polling data show that Americans support the president’s decision to remove troops from Afghanistan after 17 years of continued war. Vice president of research and policy at the Charles Koch Institute, Will Ruger, explained, “Our survey clearly shows that President Trump would have the public’s backing for the withdrawal of all U.S. military forces from Afghanistan.” He continued, “A majority of Americans would support a presidential decision to pull troops out within a year while very few say they would oppose it.”
Americans also favor the removal of U.S. troops from Syria. “Our findings on Syria show that Americans, no matter how you cut it, are unconvinced that it makes sense to continue keeping our troops in harm’s way there,” Ruger said. “The president should insist that our troops be pulled out of Syria with all due speed since there is no compelling strategic reason to stay. He can be confident that there is little support for dragging our feet or a reversal of his prudent decision to withdraw.”
Americans Support Removal of Troops within The Year
51 percent of Americans said they would support the decision to remove U.S. troops from Afghanistan within the year. Less than one quarter of respondents, or 22 percent, responded that they would oppose this decision and 27 percent were unsure.
Ruger commented, “Given that 27 percent are on the fence, a strong effort by the administration to explain why ending the longest war in American history is in our national interest could only increase already strong support for the idea.”
Americans Want a Clear Purpose for Occupation
Nearly half of the survey respondents, 45 percent, are unconvinced that the United States has a clear purpose in Afghanistan. Twenty-one percent responded that they believed America did have a clear purpose, while 34 percent, or one-third, said they were on the fence.
Americans Support National Security
According to the polling, Americans are skeptical that a continued U.S. presence in Afghanistan is vital to enhancing our national security. Forty percent of respondents said they did not think it was necessary for the United States to continue occupying Afghanistan for the sake of the safety of the nation. Only 24 percent believe occupation is necessary. Over one-third of those polled, 36 percent, said they did not know how they felt.
Americans Support Withdrawal from Syria
When respondents were asked if they agreed with the decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, 41 percent said they support this decision. Thirty-two percent responded by saying they opposed the removal of troops.
When asked specifically about removing troops from the fight with ISIS, 38 percent still supported withdrawal from Syria with 35 percent standing in opposition. In both instances, 27 percent of respondents were undecided.
There can be no doubt that military defense is an essential function of our government and is vital to our national security. After nearly two decades of war, however, Americans have recognized the current foreign policy status quo has left the nation strategically adrift. Instead of continuing to remain involved in military engagements around the globe disconnected from our security needs and without clear objectives, the American public has clearly signaled its desired for a grand strategy based in realism.
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. and was commissioned by the Charles Koch Institute. Total sample size was 1,263 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 28th December 2018 – 1st January 2019. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all US adults (aged 18+).