Now the longest-running war in US history, launched soon after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Afghanistan was bequeathed to Obama by his predecessor, President George W. Bush. But one year into the US-led “surge,” which saw a boost of some 30,000 troops into Afghanistan, it’s now Obama’s war – with all the attendant political risks.
Americans are split evenly on the surge, 48 percent for, 48 percent against. Obama’s overall handling of the war also gets a mixed review – 45 percent approval, 46 percent disapproval, according to the ABC News poll. In partisan terms, Republicans are far more supportive of the war than Democrats, but Republicans support Obama’s handling of the war less than Democrats do.
A Christian Science Monitor/TIPP poll released earlier this month found a similar result: Fifty-two percent of Democrats called Obama’s handling of the war either “good” or “excellent,” versus 16 percent of Republicans and 28 percent of independents.
Obama’s not-bad overall ratings for handling of the Afghanistan war may reflect his pledge to start withdrawing US forces next summer, the ABC News analysis suggests. Fifty-four percent of Americans support that time frame, up 15 points from when it was first announced a year ago, according to ABC News.
But among his own Democratic base, Obama is walking on egg shells. US military leaders warn that the start of the withdrawal in July 2011 is “conditions based,” and they have placed more emphasis on their goal of turning over security responsibility to the Afghans in 2014 rather than the 2011 deadline. If it begins to look like not much is going to change next July, that could spark a primary challenge to Obama from his left. So far, the likeliest possibilities – former Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean and outgoing Sen. Russ Feingold (D) of Wisconsin – say they’re not running. But one or both could change their minds, and other antiwar candidates could emerge.