October 19th, 2009
12:34 PM ET
13 years ago

CNN Poll: Will Afghanistan turn into another Vietnam?

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/10/19/art.afghan.gi1018.jpg caption="Will Afghanistan turn into another Vietnam?"]

WASHINGTON (CNN) - A slight majority of Americans think that the war in Afghanistan is turning into another Vietnam, according to a new national poll which also indicates that nearly six in 10 oppose sending more U.S. troops to the conflict.

Fifty-two percent of people questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Monday say the eight year long conflict has turned into a situation like the U.S. faced in the Vietnam War, with 46 percent disagreeing.

According to the poll, 59 percent of people questioned opposed sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan with 39 percent in favor. Of the 59 percent opposed, 28 percent want Washington to withdraw all U.S troops, 21 percent are calling for a partial American pullout, and 8 percent say the number of troops should remain the same.

"Has Afghanistan turned into Barack Obama's Vietnam? Most Americans think so, and that may be one reason why they oppose sending more U.S. troops to that country," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Older Americans are most likely to see parallels between Afghanistan and Vietnam - possibly because they remember the Vietnam War, rather than reading about it in textbooks."

President Barack Obama and his top military, national security and foreign policy advisers are conducting an intensive strategic review of the U.S. military presence in the war-torn country. The president is weighing a suggestion by the top American military commander in Afghanistan to increase force levels by as many as 40,000 troops.

More than two-thirds of people polled say it's unlikely Afghanistan will have stable government in the next few years. And that was before Monday's release of a United Nations report alleging widespread fraud in the recent Afghanistan elections. According to the survey, around two-thirds also feel that its unlikely that without American assistance, the Afghan military and police will be able to keep their country safe and secure or prevent terrorists from using Afghanistan as a base of operations for planning attacks against the U.S.

The poll indicates that six in 10 Americans feel it's necessary to keep U.S. forces in Afghanistan in order to prevent terrorist attacks on the United States. And a similar number say the conflict in Afghanistan is part of the war against terrorism which began with the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

"That's probably the reason why Afghanistan is still more popular than the war in Iraq," Say Holland. "Many Americans make the connection between 9/11 and Afghanistan, and the public recognizes that there is little chance that the Afghan government can deal with terrorists on its own."

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted Friday through Sunday, with 1,038 adult Americans questioned by telephone.

The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @psteinhausercnn

Filed under: Afghanistan • CNN poll
soundoff (240 Responses)
  1. Ted

    The problem is that Bush started something without a clue what the goal was and not enough troops. I am sure Bush would have reacted tothe surge request WITHOUT THINKING ABOUT IT, which is typical of how he conducted his presidency. Obama wants to make sure that what he does will be the right thing. Stop assuming his inaction is getting our troops killed – blame Bush for not staffing it correctly.

    October 19, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  2. Josh

    The war is only percieved as another Vietnam because of how the media presents it.

    October 19, 2009 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  3. Ali

    Life,money and time are getting no where and for those who disagree wih me on this, you are like fans who watch Hocky and I think you are enjoying watching these roops getting kill one by one.

    October 19, 2009 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  4. Jerry

    If you read the history of the Veitnam War and talk to the men who where there you find one common element. The US Government at the time failed to support the troops and the effort. Many of the battles of Vietnam (including the Tet Offensive) ended in massive US victories. But the media and the Government continued to say the war was unwinable. Many troops also felt that their hands where tied with too many rules and too much high level control. Now so far the Afgan War has been different with the troops mostly being allowed to do their jobs, but if the Government starts putting too many restrictions on operations or starts pulling troops out, then be ready for Vietnam: Afgan Version. And be ready for open season on the Talaban taking control back.

    October 19, 2009 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  5. James P.

    If OBAMA wants to be able to impose his ideas, which get him elected, he must use his influence, if necessary ruthlessly, to get
    both REID and PELOSI ousted from their congressional leadership positions and substitute them by strong, but moderate individuals able to reach to the DEm conservatives and the GOP.

    October 19, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  6. C. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    It's called "brains" instead of muscle which I'm happy to see the Obama administration doing. There was no careful thinking done before sending our troops into harms way by not knowing what kind of Government if any Afghan has and who is the Government, are they al Qaeda or Taliban. These are questions that must be answered and I'm not a military person but a thinking person and figured this out long ago.

    October 19, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  7. Yes We Can

    of course its another vietnam...and no one is listening. Dead American soldiers, their families and friends know it already...but the so called smart, in the know, in charge people, responsible for making the decisions, are NOT listening.

    October 19, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  8. Harry S.

    I would question the assertion that "older Americans" are likening Afghanistan to Viet Nam. Anyone who lived through that time and would take just a minute to think about it would realize that any similarities are superficial, including the motivation for going in the first place, the racial/socio-economic bias (read draft and college deferments) that sent a disproportionate number of poor and minority soldiers to Southeast Asia, and the religiously motivated nature of the current conflict.

    October 19, 2009 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  9. ken sanders

    It is black and white. Either get all in or all out. And it is a U N thing too. One cannot expect just the Americans to be there. Stability in Afghanistan is very important to many nations. The Taliban are fighting for control of the heroin trade. PERIOD !!! Unfortunately they also would provide a safe haven for Terrorists to train if they are successful in winning control of Afghanistan. This must not be allowed to happen. Sooo .. put more troops there and get down to the serious business of finishing this job A S A P. Where does the Taliban get the finances to keep going ? From the drug trade is where. Duhhh !!!! Sooo .. among other things take control of the marketing of the poppies. Pay the Afghanistan farmers NOT to produce. And at the same time get them to grow FOOD instead of poppies. They are not the ones who make the big money anyhow.

    October 19, 2009 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  10. Mark

    Anyone who thinks that our now eight year involvement in Afghanistan can be compared to our ten years of involvment in Viet Nam is engaging in hyperbolic politics, and not facts. Just take the 58,000 dead during the Viet Nam conflict, where most of the soldiers were reluctant draftees (and all male), compared to the light casualty list, the volunteer army with at least the illusion of sexual parity in partipation. In that time, every male of 18 years had to face the probability of being sent to fight and everyone knew at least a couple boys who died there, or later on from neglect and the wars effects on them, not to mention bearing the social condemnation that came with that service. IMO, Afghanistan is a publicity stunt, serving various vested interests, and in the comparison to the heart break of Viet Nam, just another insult to the dead and the vets who served there.

    October 19, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  11. Felix

    I wonder what the age(s) where of those people polled? I bet many have never serviced in the military and even few were actually around when we fought in Vietnam.

    October 19, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  12. Edward

    I am against sending more troops to other countries like Afgan,Japan,Korea,Soudi Arad,part of Eroupe and eles where.
    what the hell we want from people around the world, we have our own problems to deal with.so many people here In u.s getting kill everyday, people are hungry and no where to go, rape, and no Job.

    October 19, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  13. Dan

    This "war", like Iraq or Vietnam is about sustaining what Eisenhower aptly labeled the "military industrial complex". Its outcome has no bearing on the future of our citizenry – lest those poor souls who become "Universal Soldiers" and volunteer to die for our lies.

    October 19, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  14. Michael, MA

    This is not Viet Nam. We are not combating against Communist threats. We are combating against extremist threats. This was an inherited and unfinished "war" of sorts by George W. Bush. The intent was there but never completed. Obama is in the position of cleaning up yet another mess of the previous administration.

    October 19, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  15. Bob Ramos

    The media is not doing its job. Among other vital questions, it is failing to ask these vistal ones. There are about 42 countries in Afgans (primarily NATO) and this war is widely recognized as an international problem. Yet we are contributing over 48% of the troops and resources. Why cannot the burden be distributed equally especially among the 1st world countries like England, the USA, France, Italy, etc? If 40,000 additional troops are needed why cannot they come from the other countries and not the USA?

    October 19, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  16. John in Tampa

    Reasons NOT the same:
    1. Viet Nam was about cold-war politics and backing our proxies. Afghanistan is self-defense in that if we don't get Bib Laden and Company first they WILL be back to slit our throats again. (A substantial argument.)
    2. Professional volunteer military.

    Reasons they ARE the same:
    1. Propping up governments that make you hold your nose.
    2. Drugs, to a growing extent.
    3. Time is not on our side.

    I think it needs a surge-blanket that place and flush out Bin Laden and his lieutenants. Then, rapidly draw down. I do not think nation-building is a reasonable expectation there, although I hope we can leave them in a position from which THEY can build.

    October 19, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  17. Joe the Consumer

    It's very possible for the Afghan War to become a Vietnam-like because don't know how to define "Victory" or "Sucess" and when to stop or de-escalate !!

    We know from the eight Bush years and from the Russians that it is unsustainable. And we got a feeling that it is irresponsible to increase the cost to the deficit and spend tax payer money to pay for the logistics and salaries of 40,000 more troops for at least 2 to 5 more years.

    So, yes, the polls are right, expect them to get higher from disapproval.

    October 19, 2009 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  18. alan

    sorry for these troops for not undrestanding where they end-up going.

    October 19, 2009 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  19. Bill

    This war looks to be shaping up like Vietnam but it doesn't have to be. Yes, we will be there a long time. If this administration would get off the pot (both pots) and support our troops and conduct the war in a military fashion it will not turn into another Vietnam. Take the gloves off of our boys, quit letting congress run the war, and have some guts like every one of our servicemen and servicewoman have!! I am soooo tired of this administration trying to run this country without listening to experts in the fields where decisions need to be made. I feel Obama is voting "present" again with our nations fighting personnel on the line.

    October 19, 2009 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  20. Dem for justice

    Afghanistan is where the attacks on the US stemmed from and this is where the perpetrators live and operate from. We can't count on a stable Afghani government in the long term for support nor can we count on the population to accept US aims in eliminating the threat. It is time we set the terms, the field of war, and conditions and got this job done. Now we are trying to fight on the terms established by the Taliban and Al Queda. They hide in and use the population to their advantage, it is guerilla warfare. We have the means, the technology, and all we need is the will and desire.

    October 19, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  21. Doug

    Get out of Afghanistan and redirect those resources to rebuilding our economy, or better yet, partially offsetting our huge budget deficit. We blew the chance to fulfill a simpler mission in Afghanistan when Bush incorrectly redirected resources to engage in the Iraq debacle. As Russia and others have shown, "solving" Afghanistan with a military presence is a money pit, a waste of young lives, and a futile proposition. Obama needs to make a strong stand here.

    October 19, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  22. Martin V24

    Vietnam was a political disaster but from a military point of view it was a draw.... politicians lost the war not the soldiers.. and the effects of that war have left america unwilling to finish a fight.. they didnt complain after 9-11..they knew it would drag on for years... leaving Afghanistan with the job half done will give the badguys room to breath and bring the fight back to our soil with more dedication than ever... if those peace tree huging hippys want to end it they should learn to shoot first... they might need to know in the future... but for now keep the fight overthere.. send the troops..untill we win send the troops... semper fi...and god bless america....

    October 19, 2009 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  23. dan

    There is no way to stabilize afghanistan. The "government" is only effective in kabul, and not very effective even there. The rest of the country is the province of various "war lords" who fight for their own interests. How do you bring them together with a military? You don't. Can' be done. The only thing that we could possibly do is to occupy the country and stay there to prevent its use as a base for various groups. That is a 300K-troop army assignment.

    The real goal is to keep the lid on Pakistan – much larger population and fanatics as well.

    So, for the military it is at least a 2 or 3 decade project, probably longer. Good luck!

    October 19, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  24. Arden Muller

    I'm not against sending in more troops to give support to the troops that are already over there. However, I think we need to bring the rest of our troops out of Iraq, lift the ban on don't ask don't tell and then determine how many troops they really need. If they don't handle this carefully it will turn into vietnam. A re-distribution of troops that are stationed in Europe should be considered also.

    October 19, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  25. John

    Either Obama trusts his generals in the field, or he defers to himself, Pelosi, Reid etal. I choose the generals and say give them what they want or get the heck out before more lives are lost for lack of support. The staus quo isn't working.

    October 19, 2009 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
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