A Populus survey for The Times, which took place on the weekend of 17th – 19th July found that two thirds of those polled believe that British troops should be withdrawn either now (34 per cent) or within the next year (33 per cent). Only 29 per cent say that they should stay until the situation in Afghanistan becomes stable, even if it takes many years.
Of those questioned some, 67 per cent believe that British soldiers have died or been injured because of inadequate equipment. Only 25 per cent disagree. Some 64 per cent of those questioned believe that Britain’s troops are either quite badly or very badly equipped to fight in Afghanistan.
The telephone poll shows a big gender gap in attitudes with more women favouring early withdrawal of British troops than men. Nearly three quarters (74 per cent) of women favour either a firm timetable for the withdrawal of British troops within the next year or an immediate withdrawal. Less than three fifths of men (58 per cent) agree.
Only a fifth (20 per cent of women) believe that British troops should remain until “the Taliban are defeated and the situation there is stable, even if that takes many years”. But nearly two fifths of men (38 per cent) back the long haul. Almost two thirds of women (66 per cent) think that Britain’s troops are badly equipped, as do 61 per cent of men.
A previous Populus poll for ITV which took place on July 10th and 11th showed that half those asked believe that Britain’s contribution to the international forces is about right. About 30 per cent believe that Britain is contributing too much and 13 per cent said it is too little. Almost half say that the objective in Afghanistan is worthwhile but the price being paid in terms of British casualties is too high.
Slightly over one quarter back the troops’ presence, but a fifth say that the war in Afghanistan is not a worthwhile objective.
[Populus interviewed a random sample of 1,504 adults aged over 18 by telephone on July 17-19. More details of the Poll are available on http://www.populus.co.uk ]
Now none of this is good news for the fumbling New Labour Government, for the Afghan people of for President Obama’s inherited War on Terror, but, wars are not won or lost by opinion polls, at least not directly, they are fought and won by the troops on the ground. However wobbly Gordon’s Government is, our support for the troops on the ground must remain solid and NATO should stay the course. I can say this as someone who has relatives who have (and will almost certainly again) serve on the ground in Afghanistan.
Things however, have to change; the troops on the ground need the tools to do the job, the corruption that is being inflicted on the ordinary Afghan people by their own Government needs to be curbed, as does the corrupting influence of the warlords who when they ruled (or perhaps plundered would be more apt) Afghanistan were so dreadful that the Taliban (who are mostly non Afghan) were seen as tolerable.
Additionally it’s time for Pakistan to grow up. The Pakistani Government (and it’s military) need to realise that the days of supporting the Taliban and trying to play both ends against the middle are finally over. Perhaps, ironically former President George Bush may have actually put it best, when he said ‘You are either with us or you are against us!’.