Poll: Few think war in Afghanistan was worth it; majority favors refugee resettlement

US soldiers from Viper Company (Bravo),
United States soldiers from Viper Company (Bravo), 1-26 Infantry cross a river during a patrol at Combat Outpost (COP) Sabari in Khost province in the east of Afghanistan on June 22, 2011.
Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty Images 2011

Twenty years after United States forces attacked Afghanistan following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and weeks after the war finally ended, just 31 percent of Minnesota voters think the war was worth it, 46 percent say it wasn’t worth it and 23 percent aren’t sure. 

Graph of views on whether the Afghan war was worth it
Minnesotans' views on whether the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan was worth it
David H. Montgomery | MPR News

Those numbers come from the latest MPR News/Star Tribune/KARE-11/FRONTLINE Minnesota Poll of 800 registered voters. 

And of those polled, 45 percent said they supported the withdrawal but disapproved of the way the Biden administration handled it, 27 percent said they backed the withdrawal and approved of the way it was handled and 15 percent opposed the withdrawal. Thirteen percent said they weren’t sure.

Graph of views on U.S. exit from Afghanistan
Minnesotans' views on U.S. exit from Afghanistan
David H. Montgomery | MPR News

Patty Kelly, 59, of Austin said the withdrawal was “botched,” and that U.S. troops should not have left. 

“I think we're just making more problems for ourselves in the long run,” Kelly said. “They were worried about the Taliban before, and now they're taking over.”

Judith Logue, 82, of St. Cloud, blamed faulty intelligence for the chaotic withdrawal of U.S. troops. And while Logue saw some positives to the war, she said they don’t outweigh the thousands killed and trillions spent fighting it.

"I think that we planted a seed there of democracy. And I think that that will, in time, prove to be valuable to that whole group of countries involved. So I think that good was done,” Logue said. “On the other hand, the cost to American lives and to our economy, I don't know. I doubt that it was worth it."

Republicans were more than three times as likely to oppose leaving Afghanistan than Democrats. Most Democrats — 53 percent —- said they approved of the decision to leave and the way the Biden administration handled the pull-out. 

Graph of views on U.S. exit from Afghanistan by party
Minnesotans' views on U.S. exit from Afghanistan by political affiliation
David H. Montgomery | MPR News

The Biden administration did the best it could, said Riley Brown, 37, of Plymouth. 

“I don't know that there was a right way to do it, basically. All he can do is the best that you can do, and I think that's what we did,” Brown said. “I think we did as well as we could. And then it was just so unfortunate that there are other consequences.”

Nearly two-thirds of Republican respondents said they supported leaving but disapproved of the way the Biden administration handled the withdrawal. 

“I think the idea of leaving there after being there so long was a good idea. But I think the way we went about it — I'm a military man, and when you see 13 people come back on a slab, that was a wasted effort,” said Frank Moody, 85, of Rochester.

On another question, 53 percent of those polled said they would approve of the relocation of refugees from Afghanistan to their communities compared to 32 percent who would oppose it and 15 percent who said they were undecided.

Graph of views on accepting Afghan refugees
Minnesotans of most demographic groups support resettling Afghan refugees in their community, with the exception of Republicans
David H. Montgomery | MPR News

About a third of those polled said they would oppose settlement of Afghan refugees where they live. Among Republicans, 19 percent said they would support Afghan refugees in their community while 63 percent opposed it. For Democrats, the numbers were 82 percent in support and 7 percent opposed.

The poll was conducted Sept. 13-15 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

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