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Team Obama Divided on Afghanistan


Top officials of the Obama administration are divided on the expected request of the Pentagon for more troops in Afghanistan, The New York Times reported Friday.

 

"The military’s anticipated request for more troops to combat the insurgency in Afghanistan has divided senior advisers to President Obama as they try to determine the proper size and mission of the American effort there, officials said Thursday."

 

Leading the opposition is Vice President Biden:

 

"Leading those with doubts is Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who has expressed deep reservations about an expanded presence in Afghanistan on the grounds that it may distract from what he considers the more urgent goal of stabilizing Pakistan, officials said."

 

No one can plausibly argue that Vice President Biden has no idea what he’s talking about. Remember, this was the guy chosen to balance the ticket with "foreign policy experience," the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Nor is Biden a pacifist, or shy about foreign intervention. He voted for the Iraq war in 2002, and promoted US military intervention in the former Yugoslavia.

 

Secretary of State Clinton has been "vocal" in favor of more troops, and some officials said they expected her to be an advocate for a more robust force, The Times says.

 

But Biden has the wind of public opinion at his back. A number of recent polls show that the majority of Americans – and the overwhelming majority of Democrats – now oppose the Afghan war. On the question of sending more troops, public opinion is even more clear. They’re against it.

 

McClatchy News, citing a recent poll, reports:

 

56 percent oppose sending any more combat troops to Afghanistan, while 35 percent support sending more troops.

 

The McClatchy poll is particularly striking because it shows how widespread opposition to sending more troops is among different demographic groups:

 

Opposition to sending more troops also cuts across almost all lines, with the deepest opposition coming from women, young people, those making less money, people with less than a high school education, Hispanics and independents, followed closely by Democrats.

 

Only one group, Republicans, had a majority supporting the dispatch of more troops.

 

Women oppose sending more troops by the lopsided margin of 60-30, men by 52-40.

 

The biggest opposition to sending more combat troops comes from people who’re 18-34 – those most likely to fight – and drops with age. Young adults oppose additional troops by a margin of 61-32; those who’re 35-54 oppose it by 54-37; and those who’re 55 and older were against it 53-36.

 

Similarly, those who make the least money were the most opposed, with those making less than $25,000 opposed by a margin of 70-27; those making $25,000-$50,000 opposed by a margin of 58-35; and those making more than $50,000 split, 45-45.

 

Since we’re all about promoting democracy, let’s have some democracy here. Since the American people are opposed to sending more troops to Afghanistan, let’s not do it.

 

With the public opposed, with many in Congress deeply skeptical, with the administration divided, we should be able to stop this.

 

Suppose that a bipartisan resolution were introduced in Congress against sending more troops. With the public clearly opposed, wouldn’t such a resolution attract significant support? If such a resolution did attract significant support, wouldn’t this affect the calculations of the administration?

 

The first step to ending this war is stopping its escalation. Let members of Congress – Democratic and Republican – hear from their constituents that they are opposed to sending more troops to Afghanistan.

 

 

Robert Naiman is senior policy analyst at Just Foreign Policy.

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