Veterans and military families overwhelmingly support plans to fully withdraw troops from Afghanistan and similarly favor a complete U.S. military pullout from Syria, according to a new poll from a conservative activist group released Wednesday.
Concerned Veterans for America, which has close ties to the conservative Koch brothers’ network and the Trump administration, said the results indicate that President Donald Trump should follow through with his public comments to bring those troops home.
“Veterans and military families have borne the brunt of America’s endless wars, and after nearly two decades of fighting there is clear support among both groups for a new approach to American foreign policy,” said Dan Caldwell, executive director at Concerned Veterans for America.
“President Trump would have strong support from these communities if he were to follow through on his promise to remove U.S. troops from Afghanistan and Syria, and get serious about our country’s financial future.”
In recent months, CVA officials have teamed up with leaders from VoteVets.org — a left-leaning advocacy group with close ties to the Democratic Party — to push lawmakers to halt open-ended foreign military operations, arguing the “forever” wars cost too much in taxpayer funds and military readiness.
CVA leaders say results from the survey show support for that position from among veterans and military families. The data was collected between April 5 and 14, and includes responses from a randomized sample of 800 veterans and 800 more military households. Group officials said there is a 3.5 percent margin on the responses.
It was conducted by the communications firm Pursuit Of — an organization connected to the Koch brothers’ network, though with separate funding and operations from CVA.
Less than 40 percent of those surveyed said that keeping troops in Afghanistan is still necessary for the safety of the United States. Sixty percent said they support removing all U.S. personnel from Afghanistan.
The U.S. military mission in Syria got more support — about 55 percent of those surveyed said they think having a military presence there is important to U.S. national security — but roughly half said they still would support removing all American military personnel from that region.
Less than one-third said they would oppose a total withdrawal from Afghanistan, and about 45 percent said they would oppose a full pull out from Syria.
Trump in recent months has vacillated on the troop presence in both areas. In his State of the Union speech in February, Trump said that “great nations do not fight endless wars” and hinted at major personnel changes in both areas. But rumored plans for a full withdrawal from both combat zones have not yet materialized.
The potential rapid drawdown of troops from both combat zones was also a factor in the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis last year.
The veterans and military households surveyed by CVA offered a mixed view of the president’s work as commander in chief. Of those surveyed, 53 percent said they approve of his job performance, while 47 percent said they disapprove.
Those figures echo Military Times’ own poll of service members from last fall, which found 44 percent had a favorable view of Trump’s presidency and 43 percent a negative view.
One of Trump’s repeated military policy accomplishments over the last year has been securing a sizable increase in the defense budget, to $716 billion. He has also requested $750 billion in national security spending for fiscal 2020.
But only about one-third of the individuals surveyed by CVA say the military needs another funding increase next year. Among veterans surveyed, half said spending levels should remain the same. Among military households, nearly a quarter said spending levels should be decreased.
“The vast majority of veterans and military families do not support massive increases in defense spending and appear more concerned about the negative consequences of our growing national debt,” Caldwell said.
The results also showed more than three times as many respondents in support of a new base closure round than opposed to the idea. More than 70 percent said the national debt poses a significant threat to American security.
The full survey results are available on CVA’s web site.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.