News / USA

Obama Facing New Pressure From Left on Afghanistan

New questions are being raised about U.S. domestic support for the war in Afghanistan in the wake of leaked secret documents about the war and a recent congressional vote on funding for the conflict.

It has been a difficult week for supporters of the war in Afghanistan.

NATO announced that six more U.S. troops have died in Afghanistan, bringing the death toll for July to at least 66 and surpassing the previous month's record as the deadliest for American forces in the nearly nine-year-old war.

But the focus was on the secret military documents leaked by the Internet website WikiLeaks that highlighted the military difficulties in Afghanistan.

Longtime liberal critics of the war in Congress, like Democratic Representative Lynn Woolsey of California, took the opportunity to weigh in.

"I believe this war to be a tragic failure that continues to undermine rather than advance our national security interests," Woolsey said.  "The American people are running out of patience, and with 114 members of the House [of Representatives] voting this week against the war spending supplemental [funding bill], Congress is beginning to catch up to the public."

Woolsey referred to a House vote on a war funding bill for Afghanistan and Iraq.  The bill passed by a margin of 308 to 114, but 102 Democrats and 12 Republicans voted no.  Last year on a similar bill, only 32 Democrats voted no.

Virginia Democratic Congressman Jim Moran of Virginia was initially a supporter of the war in Afghanistan, but no more.

"You have lost me, for whatever it is worth, in terms of the viability of this mission," he said.

Obama administration officials, from the president on down, condemned the leaks as reckless and dangerous.  But they also said the material released by WikiLeaks will not undermine the mission in Afghanistan.

"These documents represent a mountain of raw data and individual impressions, most several years old, devoid of context or analysis," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said.  "They do not represent official positions or policy, and they do not, in my view, fundamentally call into question the efficacy of our current strategy in Afghanistan and its prospects for success."

President Obama finds himself relying more than ever on Republican support to prosecute the war in Afghanistan, even as Republicans seek to block his agenda on most other issues.

Republicans like former House Speaker Newt Gingrich have vowed to keep the pressure on Mr. Obama on Afghanistan, as he did in a recent speech at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

"We cannot afford defeat in Afghanistan," he said. "The moral effects around the planet, the increase in morale of the radical jihadists and the damage to western civilization will be incalculable.  Great powers should be careful about starting, but once they start they should be relentless and implacable about winning."

Gingrich, by the way, is one of a growing number of prominent Republicans considering a run for president in 2012.

Opinion polls suggest public support for the war in Afghanistan has slipped in recent months.

The latest Quinnipiac University poll found 43 percent support the president's handling of the conflict, while 46 percent disapprove.

But the polling on Afghanistan is complicated. That same Quinnipiac poll also found that by a margin of 59 to 34 percent, Americans believe that preventing terrorists from using Afghanistan as a base of operations is still a worthwhile goal for the United States.

On the other hand, only 44 percent believed the war is worth the cost in a recent ABC News Washington Post poll, down from 56 percent in March of last year.

"And so the question is, even if it is real successful, is it worth the cost and effort and money and so forth?  And I think a lot of that previous support is turning to, if not opposition, at least to a sort of weariness and discontent," said John Mueller, who monitors public opinion on the war at Ohio State University.

Some analysts predict that the discontent among liberal Democrats over the war will grow in the months ahead.  

"I think Obama is going to feel under great political pressure from his political left to at least have a token withdrawal next summer," said political expert Tom DeFrank of the New York Daily News.

The Obama administration would like to begin a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan by July of next year, depending on circumstances on the ground.  Pressure from the president's liberal Democratic base is likely to have an impact on that decision, says former assistant secretary of state Teresita Schaffer.

"The administration has a political problem.  This war is increasingly unpopular," she said. "You've got congressional elections coming up in a few months, another presidential election coming up in 2012.  Obama's got a problem with the Democrats.  He's got a different kind of problem the Republicans, and I think there is every reason to think that Obama would like for the build-down to be meaningful."

But in terms of this congressional election year, public opinion polls show that the war in Afghanistan still ranks well below the economy and jobs as a top issue for U.S. voters.

You May Like

Turkey's Erdogan: Women Not Equal to Men

Speaking at conference in Istanbul, President Erdogan says Islam has defined a position for women: motherhood More

Ahead of SAARC Summit, Subdued Expectations

Some regional analysts say distrust between Pakistani, Indian officials has slowed SAARC's progress over the year More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid