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The war in Afghanistan is now more unpopular than at any point since its start, according to a new poll from Gallup. A plurality of Americans, albeit a very slim one, now considers the U.S. war in Afghanistan a “mistake.”


49 percent of respondents said that yes, the U.S. “made a mistake sending troops to fight in Afghanistan in 2001” – 48 percent said that it wasn’t a mistake. That’s quite the rise from the onset of the war, when only 9 percent called it a mistake. The initial popularity makes sense, considering the U.S. was still reeling from the September 11 terrorist attacks. Still, it shows that ever since World War II, no matter how popular a war is at the start, Americans will eventually regret it.

Just take a look at Gallup’s polling data from the four major U.S. wars since 1950. In comparison, the Afghanistan conflict actually took quite a long time for a plurality of Americans to consider it a mistake.


It took two years or less for public opinion to turn on the wars in Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq. The 12-plus it took for Afghanistan is practically a lifetime. And when you track the course of the Afghanistan War’s popularity compared to the Iraq War’s, it appears much more stable (and higher overall). Support for the Iraq war has fluctuated since mid-2004, and a majority of Americans have considered it a mistake since 2007.  


Americans seem to support starting wars, only to regret them later. Maybe that has something to do with the mounting death toll that always comes (the U.S. military suffered more than 2,000 casualties in Afghanistan), or maybe we just forget why we got involved in the first place. Either way, it's pretty clear that it's difficult for a contemporary war to maintain support among the public. It took longer than it's predecessors, but now the Afghanistan war is no different. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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