Costing somewhere between $1.5 trillion and $5.6 trillion and the lives of nearly 6,000 U.S. service members (including 2,347 OEF deaths as of August 2018), the ultimate burden of war has been borne by an increasingly small portion of the population. And while support for OEF in the wake of 9/11 was overwhelming, the absence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq made the overall “war on terror” increasingly unpopular and Afghanistan a distant concern.
During the WMD maelstrom, the men and women in uniform continued to battle fierce insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan. But the war in Iraq turned into a partisan divide, providing an excuse for many Americans to lose interest in both wars.
Polling conducted by YouGov on behalf of the Charles Koch Institute and RealClearPolitics reflects skepticism of the war in Afghanistan (and Iraq) and a surprising lack of support for the initial invasion of Afghanistan, with 36 percent of military respondents considering the invasion a mistake. Only 30 percent of civilian respondents felt that the invasion was the correct choice, compared to 50 percent of military respondents.
A slight majority of survey respondents have concluded that the war in Afghanistan was either a mistake or has failed to achieve stated objectives. Extrapolating further, Americans have lost sight of the war’s original mission: to kill or capture al-Qaeda members responsible for 9/11 and deny safe haven to them by removing the Taliban from power.