Is it time to leave Afghanistan?

Public disenchantment with the war continues to grow
December 12, 2012

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Over the past five years, what residual optimism existed about Afghanistan has drained away. At no point did more than a tiny minority think we were winning; but the proportion that thought we would eventually succeed has halved from almost four in ten to fewer than two in ten. Not surprisingly, the proportion thinking our troops should be brought home as soon as possible has grown.

In some ways, public disenchantment with the war in Afghanistan is more telling than opposition to the Iraq war. That controversy was dominated by allegations of illegality (the absence of a clear UN mandate for the invasion) and dishonesty (over the “evidence” of weapons of mass destruction). The war in Afghanistan was explicitly backed by the UN, and few Britons doubt that al Qaeda and the Taliban are ruthless and violent. It is performance, not morality, that concerns the public. We went to war in a good cause, but have not prevailed. We want our troops to go to war for the right reasons; but we also need them to win. We are not at all keen on noble failure.