More Now See Failure than Success in Iraq, Afghanistan

Little Partisan Gap in Views of Whether U.S. Has Reached Goals

Negative Views of U.S. Efforts in Iraq, AfghanistanAfter more than a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the public does not think the United States has achieved its goals in either country. About half of Americans (52%) say the U.S. has mostly failed to achieve its goals in Afghanistan while 38% say it has mostly succeeded. Opinions about the U.S. war in Iraq are virtually the same: 52% say the United States has mostly failed in reaching its goals there, while 37% say it has mostly succeeded.

In both cases, evaluations of the wars have turned more negative in recent years. In November 2011, as the U.S. was completing its military withdrawal from Iraq, a majority (56%) thought the U.S. had achieved its goals there.

Similarly, the public’s critical assessment of U.S. achievements in Afghanistan stands in contrast to opinion in June 2011, shortly after Osama bin Laden was killed in neighboring Pakistan. At that time, 58% answered a forward-looking question by saying they thought the U.S. would achieve its goals in that country; the question in the current survey asks whether the U.S. has achieved its goals.

The national survey by the Pew Research Center and USA TODAY, conducted Jan. 15-19 among 1,504 adults, finds more positive views of the original decision to take military action in Afghanistan than about whether the U.S. has achieved its goals. About half (51%) say the decision to use military force was the right one while 41% say it was the wrong decision. However, the share saying the war was the right decision has fallen five points since November (from 56%) and 13 points since January 2009 (64%), shortly before Barack Obama took office.


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