October 15th, 2010
03:39 PM ET
12 years ago

What the numbers say about progress in Afghanistan

Washington (CNN) - American support for the war in Afghanistan has never been lower, according to the latest CNN polling. The low numbers just the latest figure in the complex math being calculated to determine how the US should proceed in the ten year war.

The latest poll from CNN and Opinion Research Corporation found only 37% of all Americans favor the war, 52% say the war in Afghanistan has turned into a Vietnam.

Those numbers are going down as US commitment to the war is going up, significantly. 30,000 more troops added this year. At the time the troop increase was announced, military leaders were aware it would mean a rise in troop casualties and were vocal in trying to warn Americans that it would happen.

Still the daily headlines about troop deaths is staggering. 16 NATO troops have been killed in the last three days. The US has lost 386 troops so far this year.

Modern war is about metrics (and Powerpoint). The numbers right now suggest that the surge in troops has, not surprisingly, led to a surge in offensives. Last month there were 700 airstrikes, according to Air Force data obtained by National Security producer Jennifer Rizzo. A year ago only 257 strikes were logged.

More numbers: In the last 90 days NATO forces have killed 300 senior Taliban and insurgent leaders and commanders, as well as 800 fighters and detained 2,000 more, a senior military official in Afghanistan told Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr.

It's that balance between perceived progress and deadly setback that the administration will begin considering first this December when the strategy is reviewed and then again next year ahead of the July 2011 deadline President Barack Obama set to begin withdrawing the increased troops.
That date – July 2011 – has many wondering if the ultimate calculus is about a number that is more important in the US than Afghanistan – the number 2012.

The new strategy for Afghanistan appears tailored with that date in mind. When the president announced more troops, he made sure to indicate that the government would begin to drawdown the troop surge by July 2011.

Critics said the July date was more to ensure being able to say the troops are coming home come election time, than a reasonable timeframe to expect progress.

But for all the investment of lives and money, the war is not registering with Americans. At least not while the numbers in everyone's bank accounts are a preoccupation. In a September poll by CNN and Opinion Research, only 9% of respondents thought the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were the most important problem facing the country, 49% thought the economy mattered most.

Filed under: Afghanistan • issues
soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. 18 Days until Socialism dies in the United States

    Support wanes as the campaigner-in-chief has shown the country and the enemy he doesn't care about winning. Why else would he set a time line for withdrawal of troops over a year in advance. He's a loser with a losing strategy. Pretty hard to line up behind it.

    October 15, 2010 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  2. Four and The Door

    So why the lack of reporting on the fact that the US has given it's blessing to Karzai negotiating with the Taliban? And allowing Taliban negotiators free passage to Kabul to have their talks?

    Oh yeah, November elections coming up. This may look more like Vietnam that the Administration would prefer while people are pulling levers.

    October 15, 2010 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  3. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    I hope Mr. President doesn't use the same old warmed over "what kind of message does it send to the enemy to have a draw down date".

    October 15, 2010 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  4. Neal Richardson

    I think it's become clear to the majority of Americans that this war is completely unwinable. The best that we can achieve is a simple holding pattern, which will last forever, and bankrupt us in the process, or, we can withdraw and deal with the consequences.

    October 15, 2010 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  5. capnmike

    It's simple...THERE IS NOTHING IN AFGHANISTAN TO "WIN". A "war" cannot be successfully waged against a religion, at least as we are accustomed to thinking about how wars are fought. Of course, all the "macho-men" who are in favor of "winning" this war refuse to see that. Somehow they seem to think that if we murder enough people over there, the Taliban will just disappear. The only way to "win" against a religion is to expose it for the enormous lie that it is.

    October 15, 2010 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  6. Randolph Carter, I'm no expert, but...

    Typical. I don't see why we're always so quick to go to war. We haven't won one in 65 years. The military budget sounds like a waste of our tax dollars to me. Have a nice day!

    October 15, 2010 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  7. vic nashville tn

    Only solution talks to Taliban their country let them do what they want. Bomb bomb Pakistan Afghan border destroy Al- Qaida Ignore Pakistan they takes our tax money

    October 15, 2010 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  8. Randolph Carter, I'm no expert, but...

    Is killing innocent people to spread "democracy" any different than killing innocent people to spread Islam? It seems all belief systems have terrorists at their fringes. Have a nice day!

    October 15, 2010 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  9. Tyler

    Let us all be perfectly honest – the Leftists of the world never truly supported the war in Afghanistan – they simply did not have the stones to admit at the time. The moment Obama took office, however, the dissenters came out of the woodwork.

    October 15, 2010 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  10. Jeepers

    I hate war. I hate hearing about people's fathers, sons, daughters coming home in a box. I hate the term "collateral damage" describing innocent people killed in conflicts. Don't we encourage our children to use their words when they have a disagreement in school with their schoolmates? We're all world "schoolmates" and we need to learn to use our big boy words to work things out.

    October 15, 2010 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    The only solution is to pull all of are troops out of Afghanistan, Europe,and Asia.

    October 15, 2010 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |

    Good! I'm glad support is waning. WE ARE GLAD CNN! How about repeating stories on how much we hate this war so Congress will end it sooner!

    October 15, 2010 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  13. bring home the troops

    As Sen Harry Reid(D-NV) said, "this war is lost". Let's bring home every member of our military - NOW. Peace with honor, like Vietnam. 17 of our brave, dedicated military family were killed in the last 3 days. Where is the wailing from the left for the loss of these brave souls? Why are we not seeing the flag draped coffins any more? Where is Cindy Sheehan and her persistent protests? The lunatics running the asylum have escalated this losing battle – and nary a peep from the left. these lunatics have blood on their hands, but who on the left is calling them out? My heart breaks each and every time I hear of the death of another member of our military over there - it's beyond the time they should home. Far beyond. Let the Afghans take care of themselves and their problems. If they don't like their situation, let them change it.

    October 15, 2010 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  14. Frank

    The Administration is "low balling" the Kabul Peace Conference. However, there is a high probability that a cease fire between NATO and significant numbers of Taliban cadres will be achieved by the winter when fighting signficantly slows down. This is because NATO will be in a position to "consolidate" and "hold" and the Taliban no it. If NATO is percieved to have the upper hand at that juncture then hostilities will diminish.

    October 15, 2010 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  15. RJohnson

    3 % – where are they? As one of the 100,000 families that has someone over there I have yet to speak to 1 person that thinks we should to be there. Doctors, teachers, lawyers, electricians, carpenters, auto mechanics, custodians, stay at home moms – not one agrees with this policy. The way to stop this is send a clear message to Congress in the coming elections. These long term fat cats need to go rather they are republicans or democrats. This 2 party polarized gridlock is creating havoc with this democracy. Very disappointing Obama lets this fiasco keep going in Afghanistan. This is not why I voted for him.

    October 15, 2010 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  16. emil56

    The only way we are going to have peace is to bring all of are troops home,not only Afghanistan but from Europe,and Asia.

    October 15, 2010 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  17. Jay Williams

    Why is there no public protest of the war in Afghanistan like the war in Iraq? Where are Michael Moore, Cindy Sheehan, Rachel Maddow, and marchers on the Mall when there is a war to be protested? The answer is that Afghanistan is the "good war," the "right war, "Obama's war," whereas Iraq was the "bad war," the "unjust war," "Bush's War."

    October 15, 2010 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |