The massacre of 17 civilians in Kandahar and the bloodshed caused by the Koran burnings in Bagram have dramatically lowered the US public’s appetite for the war in Afghanistan. For once, it’s a shift that has crossed America’s political divide.
In just four months time, American opposition to continuing the decade-long war in Afghanistan has skyrocketed from 53 per cent to 69 per cent of the population, a nationwide New York Times/CBS News survey has found.
It cuts across party lines, as 60 per cent of republicans and 68 per cent of Democrats agree the war is going badly.
Another poll made by the Times/CBS News showed that up to 60 per cent of respondents believe the war in Afghanistan is not worth fighting.
A Pew Research Center poll and a Gallup/USA Today poll have respectively shown that 57 and 50 per cent of respondents would like to speed up the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.
After the killing of 17 Afghan civilians by a US sergeant in March followed the highly controversial burning of Korans by American troops in February, the White House is considering speeding up its troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.
As of now, the US troops are set to finally withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014. In order to facilitate a smooth transition, American instructors are racing against the clock to train Afghan troops to secure the country after US troops are gone.
In the meantime, the Pentagon is reportedly considering putting elite troops and Special Forces in Afghanistan under CIA control. If the plan is realized, in 2014 Washington would be able to report it has no soldiers on the ground, as the CIA personnel are classified as spies.
But the Taliban is not losing time either, as its members continue to infiltrate the Afghan army.
As a result, the number of instances of Afghan turning on NATO servicemen has sharply increased. As many as 20 NATO service personnel have been killed over the last year by soldiers in the Afghan army and other security forces. All of them were allegedly recruited by the Taliban.
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says there is no question that the US public has had enough of the Afghan war, but also notes that the war's strategy shouldn’t be determined by polls.
“We cannot fight wars by polls,” he told reporters after meeting his Canadian and Mexican counterparts in Ottawa. “If we do that, we're in deep trouble. We have to operate based on what we believe is the best strategy to achieve the mission that we are embarked on.”
Panetta stated that the mission in Afghanistan was to safeguard the American people and to make sure the country never again becomes a “safe haven” for the Taliban and al-Qaeda. He also said that the commitment to the effort must be to ensure that lives lost in the conflict were not lost in vain.
Panetta’s statements were backed by Canadian Defense Minister Peter Mackay, whose country has 1,000 troops in Afghanistan.
“Polls are for dogs,” Mackay said, quoting former Prime Minister John Diefenbaker “This is our generation's war, this is a test of perseverance.”