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. Jeff

    If by "another Vietnam" you mean a media machine who disagrees with the war and then litters the airwaves with stories of failings and shortcomings in an attempt to sway public opinion more in line with it's own, then yes this is another Vietnam. If you and your media cohorts decided to run more stories showing the successes our troops have accomplished, like the reporting of WWII, then I am sure you would see public opinion sway more in favor of it. But when has the media ever done it's job without prejudice or bias. Just keep taking your cues from Emanuel and Dunn. The ratings will speak for themselves.

    October 19, 2009 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  2. JMartin

    It already is another Vietnam in terms of wanting to escalate the number of troops, monies spent and how it is affecting the countries surrounding it.

    October 19, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  3. William

    There are according to a recent M-I6 report about a thousand Al Quida in Afghanistan. They are disorganized and pose little threat to us. There is nothing to win in Afghanistan. Our military presence is doing a creditable job ( just as in Iraq) of creating more terrorists as we kill and maim.
    Just as in Vietnam the generals will be asking for more troops for now and evermore. We cannot win there. Period! Ask the British and the Russians (and others).
    Ben Laden, is, according to all, in Pakistan. Go get him there and leave the poor, long suffering Afghans alone.

    October 19, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  4. T-Rex

    This has already turned into America's Russian Vietnam. Let's just stage a big battle, declare victory and bring the troops home. You can then continue the fight intelligently, with technology and through proxies, you know: the way RR won the Cold War.

    October 19, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  5. Johns Creek, GA

    It is unconscionable that Obama is delaying a decision on troops for Afghanistan. If he remains true to form, he will coincidentally be ready to make that decision as soon as he has tallied the votes for his healthcare reform bill and won't have to be concerned about supporter backlash from that debacle. This war is nothing like Vietman and to compare them is wrong. No one likes war, and it is not surpising that this poll suggests most Americans are against it. However, this ememy will not quit and if we don't face them there, we will likely face them here and none of us want that.

    October 19, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  6. Cevin

    This is not Obama's war, he's a puppet. It's a function of our military-industrial complex/economy/who driving this version of a country. This goes way beyond political parties. Follow the money.

    October 19, 2009 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  7. George in PA

    This is not the same as Vietnam in the sense that we're fighting terrorists who directly threaten the security of the United States. However the outcome could end up the same if we fail to allow the military the resources to win a total victory. If we don't fight to win, then we should pull out sooner rather than later. That was the lesson of Vietnam at the cost of 50,000 American lives.

    October 19, 2009 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  8. MIke, FL

    If Bush and the neocans hadn't shifted the focus away from Afghanistan and into the bogus war in Iraq, Afghanistan wouldn't be as disasterous as it is today!

    We should withdraw all our brave soldiers from Iraq, and focus on getting rid off Bin Laden and Al Quida. Unfortunately, we have no choice, but to increase the number of soldiers we have in Afganistan to ensure that the terrorist don't find a safe heaven in Afganistan/Packistan.

    October 19, 2009 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  9. A.

    Honestly, most people don't know how much a "Vietnam" Afghanistan has become. You need to look at the last 30 years of history in U.S. Afghan policies to really see that we set ourselves up for this. When you shove hundreds of Millions of Dollars at a 3rd world country and then suddenly cut off all funding once the Soviet Union withdraws you have created the perfect storm for another "Vietnam".

    October 19, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  10. Kevin R, Canada

    Maybe if the media would stop talking about only the bad things that go on, people would clue in and realise this is nothing like Vietnam. There are tons of good things happening in Afghanistan in terms of rebuilding schools/houses/etc, human rights (especially for woman) and general improvement of lifestyle. Oh just wait, the media doesn't get rating for feel good stories. Sorry I forgot about that.

    October 19, 2009 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  11. ran

    If Bush had not gone into Iraq this war would be over now.

    President Obama has to clean up this mess like all the other messes Bush made in his 8 yrs.

    President Obama will do the right thing.

    Even if he were to end the war tomorrow or have a job for everyone by next week the right would still not accept him as President. That is a fact the President and the real Democrats need to keep in mind when they vote on any bills. Mr president and Democrats just do what needs to be done anyway you can and stop hoping the Republicans will help.

    October 19, 2009 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  12. Hamid

    I am an Afghan, and so I know a lot about Afghanistan and the mentallity of its people. Obama is very intelligent and accurate to go after Al Qaida, rather than the Taliban. Bush made a mistake and rather went after the Taliban (which is a local group, and means no threat to anyone outside Afghanistan). The Taliban are Afghans (especially Pashton) and if you want to solve anything with them with force, good luck, because it won't happen. The final conflict will be solved with Taliban negotiating with either Nato or the Afghan gov't.. Al Qaida on the other hand is different. They won't negotiate, because they dont' belong there anyway. If Obama wants to win this war, he should negotiate with the Taliban, a vast majority of whom are Pashtons, and give the Pashtons more say in the gov't. The Pashtons are the dominant ethnic group in the country, yet they hold very little power. That's where the Taliban is getting support. So work on that...

    October 19, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  13. Billius

    No foreign world power has ever invaded Afghanistan and successfully maintained control of it. Afghanistan is where empires go to die: Great Britain, Soviet Russia, and soon the United States if we continue operations there for too much longer.

    October 19, 2009 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  14. CarolinaDewd

    IRAQ is the Vietnam !!!
    Afghanistan is just another minor Bay of Pigs, Cuba-like incident.
    We should not be in EITHER PLACE.

    Get US out !!

    October 19, 2009 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  15. Mandingo

    Vietnam, not quite, when Israel hits Iran, Pakistan may fall it very well could escalate into the beginning of WW3. With our failed economy, consider what an attack on US soil would do, the death nail perhaps? I believe that if we don't fight there now the fight will be much worse and possibly here in the very near future.

    Ike Eisenhower warned us that when Corporations and the military join hands the result is WAR , because WAR= CORPORATE PROFITS!

    October 19, 2009 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  16. Tyler

    I love people who blame Obama for Afghanistan. Do you people remember it was Bush who messed the entire thing up from the get go, and then diverted resources away from Afghanistan to a senseless war in Iraq so as to pad his campaign contributors bottom lines?

    Now Obama is exercising restraint as he gets all of the information together to make a logical informed decision, something the Bush adminstration did not do for 8 years straight, and people are attacking him for it? Gather information and make an informed decision. Thats the kind of government I want. Not one that goes off half cocked with no regard to potential ramifications on the world political scene like the previous adminsitration.

    October 19, 2009 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  17. NKB

    I am 66 yrs old... I remember Vietnam personally...... I have said from the beginning that this feels like another "Vietnam" When will we ever learn???? If we don't learn from the past....we are bound to "repeat it" How Sad.....

    October 19, 2009 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  18. vic nashville , Tn

    I think Pakistan learn their mistakes from last week terrorist attacks
    Now the war is between Pakistan and terrorist
    Pakistan must step up and fight the terrorists
    The time for Pakistan to work with our military

    Al- Qaida is world enemy

    We have to stop blaming Obama and try to understand the real problems

    Any fast decisions not good at all

    October 19, 2009 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  19. raybrag

    Of course it's like Vietnam (I'm a 'Nam vet). How?

    1. There is no clearly defined mission. Are we there to get bin Laden? destroy the Taliban? "bring democracy"? or just get our young men and women killed?
    2. No matter who is in charge or what the mission is, they need more troops. Some day, somebody is going to recognize that this is what commanding generals do . . . they never think they have enough troops. Remember, they all studied George McClellan when at West Point.
    3. We're fighting in an environment where the local populace despises us (with good reason; look at the number of Afghans we've killed). How can you expect to succeed?
    4. We've failed to learn the lessons of history (where have we heard this before?) If Alexander the Great, Ghengis Khan, the British, the Russians and others have failed to subdue this medieval society, what in the world gives us the idea that we can?? What hubris!

    I could go on, but what's the point?

    October 19, 2009 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  20. Danny

    It's obvious now that we supported the wrong side in Afghanistan in the 1980s. The Soviet-backed communists were in favor of equal rights for women, better education – all the things we're supposedly fighting for now – while our "allies" were the ones wanting to keep the country backward in the name of religion. Good call, Ronnie.

    October 19, 2009 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  21. CarolinaDewd

    IRAQ is the VIETNAM. Afghanistan is just a minor issue like Cuba once was.

    Get US out of BOTH PLACES !!!

    October 19, 2009 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  22. ThinkAgain

    It's a very difficult situation, given the tribal nature of the Taliban and the harsh physical environment ... If we leave Afghanistan prematurely, Osama bin Laden will simply move back over from Pakistan and al Qaeda will reconstitute, stronger than ever.

    And with Pakistan and its nuclear arsenal in a shaky position, the likelihood of al Qaeda gaining access to real WMDs is greater.

    If Bush had supported the invasion of Afghanistan like he should have and truly gotten bin Laden "dead or alive," the problem would have been greatly reduced.

    Yet another example of the arrogance and incompetence of the previous Administration.

    October 19, 2009 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  23. Judith M. Metzger

    Sending more troops to a basically tribal area will only increase
    killing. Foreign assistance should only come in the area of helping the people determine what is best for them. The Taliban for all of its
    "terror" will only increase in numbers when US military increases.
    How about inviting them to the table? There must be a way. Also, this drug producing, selling and making the "big guys"rich in other countries drives the momentum and until Karzai is held accountable,little will change. Pakistan and India firgue in the equation and meanwhile our troops die.

    October 19, 2009 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  24. ThinkAgain

    President Obama is more of a leader than George W. Bush could ever dream of being. Why?

    Because Obama is his own man; Bush was merely Cheney and Rove's puppet, following their idiotic, chickenhawk military strategy of not listening to their generals and thinking that invading two countries in the Middle East would be a cakewalk and oil bonanza for the oil companies.

    Obama is not perfect, but at least he's got a brain between his ears!

    October 19, 2009 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  25. andy

    Obama's people are attacking Bush for not sending enough troops? Obama is even worse than Bush. At least Bush could make the decision to send troops. Our men and women are fighting for their life while Obama makes his campaign rounds and completely unable to make a decison. Obama is a disgrace to troops but he tried to get the olympics.. SAD

    October 19, 2009 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
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