President Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai shake hands before signing… (Charles Dharapak / Associated…)
On the heels of President Obama's surprise visit to Afghanistan last week, in which he pledged to "finish the job we started" and "end this war responsibly," the American public’s support for the 11-year conflict has reached a new low, according to a poll.
Just 27% of respondents said they back the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan, the new Associated Press-Gfk poll found. Of the 66% who said they oppose the war, about half said they believe the presence of American troops in Afghanistan is doing more harm than good.
But among all respondents, nearly half -- 48% -- said they think the continued U.S. military presence is doing more to help Afghanistan become a stable democracy.
The poll also indicated a steep decline in support for the war among Republicans. Just 37% of Republican respondents said they back the war, down from 58% last year. Support among Democrats also dropped, from 30% to 19%, while it remained at 27% for independents.
President Obama has pledged to keep American troops in Afghanistan until the end of 2014, though a small counter-terrorism force may remain after the drawdown. There are currently about 88,000 U.S. troops there, plus forces from other NATO allies.
By the AP's count, at least 1,834 members of the U.S. military have died in Afghanistan as a result of the war.
"I recognize that many Americans are tired of war," Obama told the troops during his visit to Afghanistan last week, in which he signed a 10-year security pact with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. "I will not keep Americans in harm's way a single day longer than is absolutely required for our national security. But we must finish the job we started in Afghanistan and end this war responsibly."
The poll contained one bit of good news for the president: A huge decrease in the portion of respondents who said they believe that the killing of Osama bin Laden increased the threat of terrorism against Americans.
Just 27% said the killing has increased the terror threat, 31% said it has decreased the threat and 38% said it has had no effect. Last year, 50% said it had increased the threat, 17% said it had decreased the threat and 31% said it had no effect.
The poll of 1,004 adults nationwide was conducted May 3-7 by Gfk Roper Public Relations Affairs & Corporate Communications. Respondents were reached on landlines and cellphones.