Nearly three-quarters of veterans surveyed and almost 70 percent of troops’ family members support a full withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, according to a new poll from a conservative activist group released Wednesday.
The results are an increase from identical questions in last year’s poll by Concerned Veterans for America, which has close ties to the conservative Koch network and the Trump administration. For much of the last year, the group has been leading public efforts to convince lawmakers and the White House to severely curtail overseas military operations.
“I think this shows the fatigue of almost two decades of war,” said Nate Anderson, executive director of the group. “And I think there is increased awareness among the American public about how long we have been fighting.”
The nationwide survey, conducted April 7 to 10, includes responses from about 700 military veterans and about 800 military family members. All were chosen randomly.
About 57 percent of veterans surveyed said they feel the United States should be less engaged in military conflicts overseas, an increase of about 9 percent from last year. Only 7 percent said they think the country should be more involved.
In Afghanistan specifically, 73 percent of veterans surveyed support a full withdrawal of American military forces, and 69 percent of family members voiced the same opinion. In the 2019 poll, that figure was about 60 percent for each group.
More than half of the veterans who backed a full withdrawal offered strong support for the idea.
Similarly, 71 percent of veterans and 69 percent of military family members support a full withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Two-thirds of veterans said they want to see a reduction in U.S. spending on foriegn aid, and about 17 percent said they want to see an overall decrease in U.S. military funding (34 percent said they want an increase).
Anderson said he hopes the results can dispel some presumptions about military community support for ongoing overseas operations and sway policy makers to move away from open-ended combat commitments.
Earlier this year, President Donald Trump announced plans for drawing down U.S. forces in Afghanistan as part of a peace deal signed with Taliban leaders there. But those efforts have stalled in recent weeks, as Afghan government leaders have sparred with leaders of the terrorist group over a variety of issues.
More than 2,300 U.S. military personnel have been killed in Afghanistan since the start of the conflict there in 2001.
National security ranked fourth among survey participants’ top political priorities, behind health care, immigration and the national debt. The survey (which has a margin of error of 3.5 percent) was conducted after most states in American had implemented social distancing and self-quarantine recommendations related to the coronavirus pandemic.
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.