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Afghan War Support Hits New Low; Many Urge Mental Health Checks

U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Dexter S. Saulisbury(NEW YORK) -- Support for the war in Afghanistan has dropped to a new low in ABC News/Washington Post polls, surpassing even the war in Iraq at its most unpopular.  Six in 10 Americans believe most Afghans themselves oppose the U.S. mission.  And after a shooting rampage allegedly by a U.S. soldier, eight in 10 say the military should improve mental health monitoring and limit combat duty alike.

Two-thirds of Americans now say the war in Afghanistan has not been worth fighting, a new high that matches peak opposition to the Iraq war almost exactly five years ago.  Support for the Afghanistan war, at just 30 percent, is 3 points lower than the lowest on record for Iraq.

Views on the war were virtually as negative last spring, then improved after the killing of Osama bin Laden.  The subsequent erosion follows the U.S. military’s inadvertent burning of the Koran and other Muslim holy texts at Bagram Air Base in February, violent protests that followed and, separately, the massacre of 17 Afghan civilians in Kandahar in March, allegedly by a U.S. service member.

In an ABC/Post poll last month, after the Koran burning and related protests, opposition to the war increased from 54 percent to 60 percent, with just three in 10 believing Afghans themselves supported U.S. efforts in their country.  Now, after the civilian massacre, opposition to the war has risen by another 6 points, to 66 percent, and the belief that Afghans support the war has dropped by 8 points, to 22 percent.

The drop in views that Afghans themselves support U.S. efforts makes a difference.  This poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds that among those who think most Afghans back the war, a majority -- 53 percent -- think it’s been worth fighting.  Among those who think Afghans are opposed to what the U.S. is trying to accomplish, however, just 22 percent think the nation’s longest war has been worth it.

While there’s been speculation about the possible role of post-traumatic stress disorder or battlefield fatigue in the attack on Afghan civilians, the public divides, 44-43 percent, on whether this was an isolated incident or indicative of broader problems with the way the U.S. military monitors the mental health of service members.

Still, apart from the specific incident, there is a broad sense that the military should be doing more to track mental health -- 79 percent say so -- and to limit the amount of time active duty service members are deployed to combat areas, favored by an almost identical 80 percent.  Just 14 and 15 percent, respectively, think the military already is doing enough mental health monitoring and that time limits on deployments are not needed. 

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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