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
March 31, 2009; 1:13 PM ET
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