By Jon Cohen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 26, 2009 12:18 AM
About two-thirds of Americans support President Obama's decision to send approximately 17,000 additional U.S. military forces to Afghanistan, and, in stark contrast to the sour public reception of former president George W. Bush's "surge" of troops in Iraq, support for Obama's move crosses party lines, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Support for the proposed influx of troops to Afghanistan, however, comes as Americans are about evenly divided about whether the war there has proved to be worth its costs. They also split 50 to 41 percent on whether it is essential to win in Afghanistan to succeed in broader efforts against terrorism.
Nearly four in 10 who said the war has not justified its costs back the new troops, signaling that some people may expect better results after the troop levels rise. (Among Democrats, that number is closer to 50 percent.) While most Americans opposed Bush's early 2007 decision to send additional troops to Iraq, the percentage who saw significant progress there trended sharply higher from the summer of 2007 through the end of last year.
A parallel, though less dramatic, shift over the past two years is a bump in the number who say that winning in Iraq is crucial to victory in the campaign against terrorism. On that question, 44 percent see a close linkage, the highest number since an overnight poll following Bush's speech announcing the Iraq strategy.
One relatively unchanged public attitude about the war in Iraq is the widespread opinion that it, on balance, has not been worth fighting. Sixty percent in the new poll said the costs of that war have outweighed its benefits. That number is little changed from recent polls and has been the majority view for more than four years.