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

Video British Fighters On Frontline of ISIS Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Multimedia Hit Song Delivers Ebola Message in Liberia

'Ebola in Town' has danceable beat, while also delivering serious message about avoiding infection More

Video New Technology Gives Surgeons Unprecedented Views of Patients’ Bodies

Technology offers real-time, interactive, medical visualization and is multi-dimensional 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.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid