A newly released poll of Iraqi public opinion finds that seven out of 10 Iraqis want the United States to withdraw its military forces within one year. The poll was conducted by the University of Maryland.
Steven Kull, director of the university's Program on International Policy Attitudes, says the results of his group's survey are clear.
"Basically, we asked which of the following would you like the Iraqi government to ask the U.S.-led forces to do? And 37 percent say they would like them to withdraw within six months," said Steven Kull. "Another 34 percent say they would like them to make a commitment to withdraw according to a timeline, within a year. So, a total of 71 percent say they basically want the U.S. out within a year."
In other findings, the poll found 78 percent of Iraqis felt the U.S. military presence in Iraq is provoking more conflict than it is preventing. Meanwhile, it shows a rise in public confidence in Iraqi security forces, with 62 percent of the respondents saying they believe Iraqi forces will be ready within a year.
The survey includes responses from more than 1,100 Iraqi adults, who were questioned in person in early September.
In discussing the findings, the Brookings Institution's Ken Pollack says he is struck by what he described as the gap that is opening between the people of Iraq and their leaders, who have been vocal about urging coalition troops to stay.
"Just across the board, in the last three or four weeks, we've had eight or 10 of the most important Iraqi leaders come through town," said Ken Pollack. "And what every single one of them has said, it has been the leitmotif [theme] of every word out of their mouth, is you cannot leave us. If you leave us, the country is absolutely going to come apart at the seams."
He says he believes many Iraqi people are tired of the years of post-Saddam Hussein chaos, and feel the United States has not been able to improve the situation.
"What the poll demonstrates is the radically different perspective of the people on the streets, whose feeling is, 'our lives are miserable now and you Americans clearly aren't doing anything for us, so why don't you get out? Maybe if you get out, maybe things will improve," he said. "Maybe our security forces will be able to take over things. Maybe things will get better somehow."
Iraqi health ministry statistics have shown a steady rise in the number of Iraqi civilian deaths, from January to July of this year. In July alone, violence killed more than 3,400 Iraqi civilians.
Meanwhile, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Iraq's elected leaders welcome the presence of U.S.-led coalition forces. He said international forces have extended their stay in Iraq at the request of the Iraqi government.
The spokesman had no comment on the specific poll numbers, but said he believes Iraqi people understand the need for and appreciate the U.S. presence there.