Geopolitics

One Year Later, Biden’s Afghanistan Withdrawal Still Falls Shy of Majority Support

The president suggested the withdrawal would age well, but voters are no more supportive of the decision now than they were at the time

President Biden speaks on killing of Ayman Al-Zawahiri
President Joe Biden delivers remarks from the Blue Room balcony of the White House on Monday about a U.S. drone strike that killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman Al-Zawahiri. (Jim Watson-Pool/Getty Images)

Almost exactly one year ago, people worldwide were shocked by scenes of mass chaos at Kabul airport amid the withdrawal of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, leaving a lingering, bitter taste in the mouths of U.S. voters regarding one of President Joe Biden’s key campaign promises.

Record-Low Share of Voters Now Back Afghanistan Withdrawal

The share who support the withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Afghanistan has dropped 21 points since April 2021

A stacked horizontal bar chart of support and opposition for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan showing that one year later still less than a majority backs the Biden administration's move last year.

Surveys conducted in 2021 and 2022 among a representative sample of roughly 2,000 registered U.S. voters each, with unweighted margins of error of +/-2 percentage points. Figures may not add up to 100% due to rounding.
Fewer than half of voters support the withdrawal
  • According to a new Morning Consult/Politico survey, 48% of U.S. voters support Biden’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan, down 1 percentage point since August 2021 and the lowest number on record. Another 35% oppose the decision, just 3 points shy of a record set in September 2021. 
  • The share of support for the withdrawal pales in comparison to the 69% who backed it in April 2021 after Biden announced his plans to remove all U.S. troops by Sept. 11 that year, underscoring how the rapid collapse of the Afghan National Army and images of Afghans desperate to escape Taliban rule affected perceptions of the move. In the latest survey, nearly 3 in 5 (57%) said the withdrawal did not go well, unchanged from August 2021.
  • The issue is highly polarized, with 68% of Democrats in favor of the withdrawal compared to just 28% of Republicans. Independents, meanwhile, are nearly split: 42% support the decision and 37% oppose it.
Afghanistan — and the world — have grown more dangerous in the past year

During his remarks on the completion of the withdrawal, Biden took the long view, saying U.S. national interests were not served by remaining in Afghanistan and circumstances both on the ground and on the geopolitical scene made pulling out the best way forward. 

Biden specifically pointed to China and Russia as threats the United States was left less capable to address while tied up in Afghanistan. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine and with tensions over the Taiwan strait at a high point following U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit, his argument appears well-founded.

But as the killing of al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri in Kabul demonstrates, Afghanistan under Taliban control is once again becoming a safe haven for terrorists who wish the United States harm — and U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan is not over, even if there are no boots on the ground. 

And despite Biden’s promises to “​​continue to support the Afghan people through diplomacy, international influence and humanitarian aid,” daily life for ordinary people in the country has only grown more unbearable. An Aug. 1 report from the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction indicates that food insecurity is up 60% year over year, and nearly 19 million Afghans — just under half the population — will encounter life-threatening food shortages between June and November, while 1.1 million children could starve to death in that time. The Taliban government has also cracked down on women, preventing girls from attending school, ordering women in many areas to cover their faces in public and requiring a male guardian to accompany women on long journeys.

More evidence in support of Biden’s argument that the withdrawal was the right choice at a crucial moment may yet emerge as events in the coming months and years unfold, but public opinion has yet to come around to that idea.

The latest Morning Consult/Politico survey was conducted July 28-31, 2022, among a representative sample of 2,006 registered U.S. voters, with an unweighted margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

Morning Consult