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Obama must better rally Americans behind the war in Afghanistan, Pakistan

To reverse a sharp drop in public support for the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Obama should go far beyond an 'update' on his administration's review of the war.

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President Obama’s one-year review of his strategy in Afghanistan was focused on fixing the war effort. But the review can also help the president on another front: public opinion at home.

And in that key battleground, Mr. Obama is not winning hearts and minds.

Polls show a sharp rise in the percentage of Americans who say the war in Afghanistan is not worth fighting. Instead of 40 percent opposing it a year ago when Obama took full ownership of the war, now 60 percent do. And that may rise.

This decline of support for the longest war in American history violates a key lesson from the country’s second longest war (Vietnam): The US cannot win a war without popular support; otherwise, it will need to retreat, hurting America’s reputation as well as its armed forces.

Obama did use the review for a mid-day televised pressroom briefing today to report on progress made so far and the challenges still ahead. The US appears on track to start a troop pullout in July, to finally hand off the effort to Afghan forces in 2014, and to ensure long-term US support beyond that.

New military tactics, such as night raids on homes suspected of harboring terrorists, combined with a surge of 30,000 new troops and more drone attacks on Taliban hideouts in Pakistan, have the enemy on the defensive – for now.


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