I don’t know at what point and for what reason the war in Afghanistan is now Obama’s war, but it has happened. With American death tolls rising and civilian casualties from ordinance, it is not a rosy picture.
By Clive Crook
Published: August 30 2009 19:51 | Last updated: August 30 2009 19:51
Except for a pause to honour Senator Edward Kennedy, healthcare reform has dominated US news and comment for weeks. It is seen as the make-or-break challenge for Barack Obama’s administration. Yet soon it may look unimportant in comparison with an issue that the US public has barely seemed to notice: the war in Afghanistan.
Casualties there are mounting – this has been the deadliest month for US forces since the fighting began in 2001. The losses have attracted less attention in the US than British losses have in Britain, and pressure on the administration to pull out has been mild. But this will change. When it does, Mr Obama will longingly recall those carefree months debating healthcare.
Quietly, public opinion has already turned against the war. According to a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, 51 per cent now say the war is not worth fighting. Among Democrats, seven out of 10 say that.
A recent Economist/YouGov poll found that only 32 per cent agree with sending more troops – something the army is expected to request imminently. To the question “What do you think will eventually happen?” came a response to thrill every Taliban fighter: 65 per cent said “The United States will withdraw without winning” and only 35 per cent “The United States will win”.
The issue has not yet come to the boil but Mr Obama’s position is as difficult as it could possibly be. This is now his war. He asserted ownership again only recently, calling the conflict for the hundredth time “a necessary war”, unlike his predecessor’s supposedly needless “war of choice” in Iraq.