Most Americans Still OK With War on Terror, Nearly 18 Years On

U.S. Marines stand guard during the change of command ceremony at Task Force Southwest military field in Shorab military camp of Helmand province, Afghanistan, on Jan. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini, File)

(CN) – In light of the recent breakdown in peace talks between the U.S. and Taliban to end America’s longest war, most Americans think sending troops into Afghanistan 18 years ago was not a mistake, according to a new poll released Wednesday.

The Gallup poll surveyed 2,291 American adults and found that 52% said it was not a mistake to send troops to Afghanistan following the Taliban’s refusal to hand over Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Another 43% of those polled said they believe it was a mistake to send troops.

These numbers closely match the last time the polling organization asked the question in 2015, when 54% said it was not a mistake compared to 42% who said it was. Partisan views split on the question, with 53% of Democrats saying the war was a mistake as opposed to just 25% of Republicans. Among independent voters, 48% said they believe sending troops in was a mistake, a five-point increase from 2015.

The U.S. currently has some 14,000 troops stationed in the war-torn country, though more than 775,000 U.S. service members have been deployed there in the last 18 years. About 2,400 American troops have died in the conflict, including 16 this year.

On Saturday, President Donald Trump announced he had canceled peace talks with Taliban leaders following a week of attacks across Afghanistan that killed 100 people, including a U.S. soldier. The president received criticism over the weekend for inviting the Taliban onto American soil at Camp David so close to the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

Although a slight majority support the war in Afghanistan, views are split on whether it has made America more secure. Among those polled, 46% said the country is less safe now than before the war, while 43% say America is safer. Republicans diverge greatly on the question from Democrats and independents, as 66% of GOP supporters say America is safer compared to just 35% of independents and 33% of Democrats.

While the Trump administration had been pursuing peace talks with the Taliban for months, the president’s cancellation of the past weekend’s meeting could mean an even longer presence of American troops in the region.

In a speech given Wednesday to commemorate the 9/11 attacks, President Trump issued a warning to the Taliban, saying that “we have hit our enemy harder than they have ever been hit before.”

“And if for any reason they come back to our country, we will go wherever they are and use power the likes of which the United States has never used before, and I’m not even talking about nuclear power,” President Trump said. “They will never have seen anything like what will happen to them.”

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