September 10 2009
By Michael Evans
Most people are against the decision to send British troops to Afghanistan, according to a survey published today.
More than half of those questioned said that the Army should never have been deployed to Helmand province in southern Afghanistan.
The latest gauge of public opinion will cause alarm in the Government, which has been trying in recent months to clarify the objectives of the mission in Helmand, codenamed Operation Herrick.
Gordon Brown said last week that his priority was to protect British streets from terrorism and warned that the threat would increase if the Taleban were allowed to regain power in Afghanistan and provide a sanctuary for al-Qaeda.
However, 53 per cent of the 2,000 people questioned for the survey, conducted by ICM Research on behalf of the National Army Museum, rejected the Government’s reasoning for the mission in Helmand.
When asked whether 9,000 troops should have been sent on Operation Herrick, only 6 per cent “strongly agreed”. Another 19 per cent “agreed”, giving a combined vote of support of one quarter of the survey participants.
Another 15 per cent were unable to make up their minds either way, indicating that the Government still has a long way to go to convince members of the public that the mission in Afghanistan is justified.
Even greater disaffection was shown towards the British military campaign in Iraq, which was finally brought to an end in July after six years.
Sixty per cent voiced opposition to Britain’s military involvement in Iraq. Only 20 per cent agreed that it had been right to send troops to Basra.
By comparison, there was much stronger support for past conflicts: 56 per cent agreed — and only 11 per cent disagreed — that it was right to send troops to the Falklands after they were occupied by Argentine forces in April 1982.
Those questioned in the poll also largely approved of the troop deployment to Northern Ireland, with 53 per cent in support. They were less enthusiastic about the peacekeeping mission in Bosnia in the 1990s, with just under 30 per cent giving their backing and the same number disapproving of the operation.
To underline the apparent lack of support for Britain’s most recent overseas military operations, more than 70 per cent of the survey participants said that the Army’s most important function should be to defend British territory and British citizens.
When asked to give their views on other military responsibilities, including ones that are deemed by the Government to be crucial for the success of the campaign in Afghanistan, support was rock bottom.
Only 2 per cent of the sample thought that it was important for the Army to get involved in the reconstruction of countries affected by war and 1 per cent believed that it was a function of the Army to train and mentor international forces.
The Government’s exit strategy for Afghanistan is based around the hope that British and other Nato troops can train sufficient numbers of soldiers in the Afghan National Army for them to take over the security role in a few years.
Despite the reservations towards Britain’s military overseas commitments, 64 per cent of those questioned in the ICM poll said that they would support their children if they wanted to join the Army.
The survey was published to coincide with the opening at the National Army Museum of an exhibition entitled Conflicts of Interest, exploring three decades of wars in which the British Army has been involved.
American are also loosing their taste for war.
An ABC News-Washington Post poll found 51 percent who said the war was not worth fighting, while 47 percent said it was worth it.