October 21, 2009 / 5:06 AM / 10 years ago

Americans divided on Afghan troop increase

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Americans are evenly and deeply divided over whether President Barack Obama should send 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan and public support for his handling of the war has taken a fall, according to a Washington Post-ABC News public opinion poll released on Wednesday.

Forty-seven percent of those polled favor a troop buildup in Afghanistan, while 49 percent oppose it and a majority on both sides hold their views “strongly,” the poll found.

The survey also found that a large majority of Americans say the administration lacks a clear plan for dealing with the problems in Afghanistan, the Post reported.

The poll also found public approval for Obama’s handling of the war has tumbled to 45 percent, down 10 percentage points in the past month. Some 47 percent disapprove, up 10 points since September.

The falloff has come as Obama grapples with a request from Gen. Stanley McChrystal, his top military commander in Afghanistan, for 40,000 reinforcements.

There are already 65,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and another 39,000 from allied nations.

Obama has been holding a series of meetings with senior advisors who are themselves divided over what should be the next strategic step in the eight-year-old war.

A decision on McChrystal request was further complicated by Afghanistan’s still unresolved presidential election.

Obama is under pressure from Republican opponents who argue that his painstaking review undermines the war effort.

Public support for a troop increase is split along party lines, according to the Post-ABC survey

Sixty percent of Democrats are against a troop increase while two-thirds of all Republicans favor an increase.

Some 880 U.S. troops and a total of 1,463 foreign troops have been killed in Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion.

The poll of 1,004 people was conducted October 15 to 18 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

Writing by JoAnne Allen; editing by Todd Eastham

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