A new survey finds that most American adults perceive Afghanistan as an adversary rather than an ally of the United States, and two-thirds believe the nearly 20-year Afghan war was not worth fighting.
The nationwide poll’s findings from the Pearson Institute for the Study and Resolution of Global Conflicts and the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research come two years after the chaotic withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in August 2021 and the return of the Taliban to power. The U.S. had invaded the South Asian nation to punish the then-Taliban rulers for harboring al-Qaida leaders who planned the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Many of those surveyed were skeptical about how successfully the U.S. achieved its key objectives, such as eliminating the threat from extremists or improving opportunities for women in Afghanistan.
While 46% of adults believed the war successfully captured or killed those responsible for the 9/11 terror strikes on the U.S., only 16% said that Washington had succeeded in developing a functioning Afghan government. Less than a quarter of adults, or 22%, said the U.S. successfully improved opportunities for women in Afghanistan.
“The findings show that few think the U.S. succeeded during the war in improving opportunities for Afghan women, but most still view advancing the rights of Afghan women as an important foreign policy goal,” said Sheila Kohanteb, Forum Executive Director at The Pearson Institute for Study and Resolution of Global Conflict.
“The public clearly believes the U.S. should try to help improve the situation of Afghan women, and many continue to hear about the restrictions being placed on women in Afghanistan,” Kohanteb added.
The Taliban have imposed their strict interpretation of Islamic law across the impoverished country since reclaiming power and installing their men-only government in Kabul. They have restricted women’s rights to education and work. Women are forbidden from visiting public places, such as parks and gyms, and undertaking long road trips without a close male guardian.
The U.S. survey reveals that 41% of adults think Afghanistan is an enemy, and another 42% say it is unfriendly, while only 14% report it is an ally or friendly nation.
Regarding current foreign U.S. policy goals in Afghanistan, 77% of adults say it is at least somewhat important to eliminate the threat of Islamic extremists taking shelter in the country, and 74% support advancing the rights of women and girls.
The survey indicated that 59% were unaware of the Taliban retaking control in 2021, and 64% had not heard about the restrictions on women.
The poll showed that 68% of U.S. adults had heard at least something about the U.S. troop withdrawal, but fewer had heard about the treatment by the Taliban of Afghan citizens who worked with the United States during the war. Only 52% had heard a lot or some information, while 47% said they had heard little or nothing.
While withdrawing its troops in August 2021, the U.S. also airlifted tens of thousands of Afghans from Kabul airport, who worked closely with international troops during their two-decade-long presence in Afghanistan. But many more are still trying to flee the country, fearing retribution from the Taliban and urging Washington to meet what they say is its moral responsibility to ensure their safety.