Majority of Americans Say Afghanistan War Not Worth Fighting as U.S. Evacuates: Poll

A majority of Americans said they believe the war in Afghanistan was not worth fighting as U.S. forces evacuate after nearly 20 years of involvement, according to a poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

About two-thirds of Americans in the poll conducted from August 12 to 16 believed it was not worth it for the U.S. to go to war in Afghanistan. Now, the Taliban has returned to power after seizing the country's capital, Kabul. President Joe Biden is facing backlash from Republicans and Democrats in Washington for not being more prepared for how rapidly the Taliban took control of the nation.

"It wasn't worth losing more American lives over a mess," said Mark Sohl, 62, a Democrat from Topeka, Kansas. He agreed with Biden's decision to exit Afghanistan. "After 20 years, you got to cut loose."

"I don't believe we should have been in there to begin with," said Lubbock, Texas resident Sebastian Garcia, 23, who said he voted for Biden and had three cousins serve in Afghanistan. "But now that we're leaving, I do feel we probably should stay after seeing, I guess you'd say, the trouble we've caused." Garcia said.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

U.S. Soldier in Afghanistan
A majority of Americans said they believe the war in Afghanistan was not worth fighting, according to a new poll. Above, a U.S. soldier with Apache Company of Task Force 3-66 Armor, out of Grafenwoehr, Germany, stands guard at a police checkpoint at Gulruddin pass in the Sar Hawza district of Paktika province, south of Kabul, Afghanistan, on December 1, 2011. Heidi Vogt/AP Photo

The U.S. is more divided over Biden's handling of foreign policy and national security, according to the poll.

In the poll, 47 percent approve of Biden's management of international affairs, while 52 percent approve of Biden on national security.

Biden has faced bipartisan condemnation in Washington for sparking a humanitarian crisis by being ill-prepared for the speed of the Taliban's advance.

The president has stood by his decision to exit the country, insisting that he will not allow the war to continue indefinitely and betting that Americans agree with him.

Others felt more conflicted after seeing grim scenes in Afghanistan even if they opposed the war overall. In one image likely to endure, Afghans clung to U.S. military planes in a desperate bid to flee the country

Roughly two-thirds also suggest the Iraq War that coincided with Afghanistan was a mistake. Republicans are somewhat more likely than Democrats to say the wars in both countries were worth fighting. About 4 in 10 Republicans do, compared with about 3 in 10 Democrats.

Deborah Fulkerson of Pueblo, Colorado, believes it would be wise for the U.S. to remain in Afghanistan.

"I feel like us having a presence there just keeps things more neutral and safer there for those people and for us," said the 62-year-old, who describes herself as "more conservative," particularly on social issues.

Fulkerson acknowledged that she does not follow Afghanistan that closely, saying she is more concerned with gas prices and local news.

"I'm a Christian and I know where my future lies, and all of this stuff that's going on that I have no control over except through prayer, I just can't watch it all the time," she said. "I would be negative all the time."

About half of Americans say they are extremely or very concerned about the threat to the U.S. posed by extremist groups based outside of the United States; about another one-third are moderately concerned. Only about 1 in 10 say they are not concerned.

But nearly 20 years after the September 11 attacks that spurred the Afghanistan war, more Americans say they perceive the major national security threats as being internal.

Roughly two-thirds say they are extremely or very concerned about the threat of extremist groups based inside the United States. About one-quarter are somewhat concerned, and about 1 in 10 are not concerned.

Republicans and Democrats see the threat of extremist groups based outside of the U.S. similarly: about half across party lines are extremely or very concerned. But Democrats are more likely than Republicans to be strongly concerned about the threat of extremist groups based in the U.S., 75 percent to 57 percent.

Biden has largely focused his policy agenda on domestic issues such as rebuilding the U.S. economy after the coronavirus pandemic. That appears to be resonating with some Americans who see Afghanistan as a distant war but the costs of food, housing and transportation as inescapable.

Michael Lee Bettger, 47, said he voted for Donald Trump but has been impressed by the economy under Biden and that is his priority. Bettger lives in Austin, Arkansas, and has never been this busy working industrial maintenance.

"Jobs are just overflowing," Bettger said. "There's not enough of me to go around."

Military Honors Burial Ceremony
A majority of Americans said they believe the war in Afghanistan was not worth fighting, according to a new poll. Above, members of the Old Guard carry the casket of a U.S. soldier during a full military honors burial ceremony next to Section 60, which is reserved for those killed during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, in Arlington National Cemetery on August 16, 2021, in Arlington, Virginia. Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images