Withdrawing British troops

March 15, 2012, 3:08 PM GMT+0

64% say involvement in Afghanistan 'not worth it;' 26% say troops help bring stability and security

When thinking about our time in Afghanistan, and the casualties suffered by British combat troops since we first entered the Afghan war in 2001, the majority of the public say that Britain's involvement has not been worth it, our polls show.

  • 64% say our involvement in Afghanistan it 'has not been worth it', 15% believe it has been
  • 40% say British troops are not succeeding in their mission as they are not bringing stability or security and will never be able to
  • 26% say yes they are helping to bring stability and security to Afghanistan
  • 20% say they are not bringing stability and security but it is possible eventually

Labour MP David Winnick has said the Government should accept that the war in Afghanistan is “unwinnable” and that the public no longer “accept the official line that our security depends on our continuing military role in Afghanistan”.

David Cameron and Barack Obama are expected to concrete plans for UK and US forces to leave their lead combat role in Afghanistan next year during Cameron's visit to Washington.

Plans for withdrawal

Many Britons think the best option would be to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan before 2014, while almost 2 in 5 values a more timely withdrawal plan over the course of a year, while just over 1 in 10 think British troops should remain in Afghanistan.

  • 57% think British troops should be withdrawn from Afghanistan sooner than 2014
  • 40% saying all combat troops should be withdrawn immediately
  • 22% say they should all be withdrawn by the end of 2014
  • 14% say British troops should remain in Afghanistan as long as Afghanistan's government wants them there

It is expected that Cameron and Obama will conclude that Afghan forces should be taking over the lead combat role in Afghanistan by 2014, with the chance of an earlier departure of British troops in 2013. Downing Street has not confirmed a detailed timetable for the handover of combat duties to Afghan troops.

  • 57% believe a firm deadline should be set to bring back British troops from Afghanistan, regardless of the situation there
  • 27% believe that there should not be a firm deadline for bringing back British troops, and they should remain there until Afghanistan is stable enough for them to withdraw

Cameron has conceded that Allied forces would not leave behind a “perfect democracy” and that Afghanistan faced “huge development problems” following the decade-long war, but he remains passionate about assuring people “that our troops are going to come home.”

The lack of a clear handover deadline has met backlash from activists with the' War on Want' website launching a campaign requesting that the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs allows an immediate withdrawal of British troops.

Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy warned that hastened withdrawal plans without an official strategy would be "unsettling" for forces personnel and their families. He said: "There is more to leaving Afghanistan than choosing a date. It's also about stabilising that country so the progress that's been made doesn't collapse once international forces leave."

See the full details and results here plus additional Sunday Times results here (page 11)