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Post-ABC: Afghanistan

Afghanistan, the subject of today's multi-national meeting in The Hague, poses a major foreign policy challenge to the Obama administration, one that includes convincing a divided American public about the best way forward.

According to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, Americans are about evenly split on whether the United States is or isn't making significant progress in Afghanistan, and there's significant disagreement about whether to negotiate with elements of the Taliban there and whether to focus economic development or military action.

Most Americans see the war in Afghanistan as worth the fight - a stark contrast to more sour long-held views about the Iraq war - and last month most approved of Obama's decision to order an additional 17,000 U.S. troops to the country.

But in the new poll, 53 percent oppose the idea of the U.S. negotiating with those Taliban who agree to suspend attacks on U.S., NATO and Afghan forces, though a sizable minority, 41 percent, would back the tactic. There's also a near even split on whether the U.S. should focus more on defeating the Taliban militarily (51 percent) or on economic development (41 percent).

And partisan minefields abound; here are the party breakdowns on these two questions:

Q: Would you support or oppose the U.S. negotiating with elements of the Taliban if they agreed to suspend attacks on U.S., NATO and Afghan forces?

             Support   Oppose   No opinion
All           41        53          6
Democrats     55        39          6
Republicans   24        71          5
Independents  41        56          3

Q: Do you think the U.S. should focus more on (economic development in Afghanistan) or more on (defeating the Taliban militarily)?

              Economic      Defeating
             development   the Taliban   No opinion
All              41            51             8
Democrats        56            32            12
Republicans      27            67             6 
Independents     38            54             8

By Jon Cohen  |  March 31, 2009; 1:13 PM ET
Categories:  Post Polls  
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