Majority of Americans think Afghanistan "not worth it." According to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, only 44% of Americans believe the Afghan war is worth its costs, while 52% disagree. This ends a brief jump in popular support for the war that occurred after President Obama announced his new surge strategy.
Support for the war is weakest among Democrats, two-thirds of whom agree the Afghan war is not worth it. A majority of Independents (56%) also feel the war isn't worth fighting. On the other hand, 69% of Republicans surveyed believe the war is worth its costs.
Though Americans seem to be losing confidence in the Afghan war, the poll finds they still approve of Obama's handling of the war by a 20-point margin: 56% approve, while 36% disapprove.
Treat Karzai with more respect, Obama tells officials. In advance of a four-day summit with the Afghan president, Obama has warned his senior staff to stop criticizing the Afghan government, the Washington Post and the Telegraph report.
This follows several months of press leaks and public criticism of Karzai, his family, and top officials for corruption, incompetence, and alleged ties to Afghanistan's opium industry. Karzai retaliated for the diplomatic slights by musing about joining the Taliban during a meeting with Afghan elders.
The Obama administration's divisions over Karzai are well-known. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is regarded as Karzai's "best friend" in Washington, while Vice President Joe Biden and National Security Advisor James L. Jones are known to be among his harshest critics.
The divide extends to Kabul: Gen. Stanley McChrystal has repeatedly urged Obama to identify more closely with Karzai, while Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke have urged him to distance himself from the Afghan president.
But in recent days, most senior U.S. officials have publicly expressed their support for Karzai. This helps Obama achieve the goal he has set for the Karzai summit: to reassure the Afghan President that the U.S. commitment to Afghanistan, and to its president, will extend beyond the withdrawal of U.S troops to the country, set to begin in June 2011. Pressure mounts on Pakistan to take on North Waziristan militants. The revelation that the Pakistan Taliban are linked to the Times Square bomb plot has contributed to a major reversal in the Pakistan-U.S. relationship, Reuters and the New York Times report.
The U.S. has long lobbied Pakistan to take action in North Waziristan, but pressure has become more direct in the past few days. This past week, U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson relayed a "forceful" message to Pakistan president Asif Ali Zardari, urging him to take action. The top U.S. general in Afghanistan, Stanley McChrystal met with the Pakistani military chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, to relay a similar message.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, warned in an interview with CBS that there would be "severe consequences" if the Times Square plot were linked to the Pakistani Taliban.
Pakistani officials have been quick to argue their troops are overstretched after mounting operations in South Waziristan and the Swat valley. But Ahmed Rashid, in a column for the BBC, warns that Pakistan's strategy of leaving North Waziristan alone is not working, noting that "thousands of fighters and their commanders [from Swat and South Waziristan] have regrouped" in there, and have since rolled back much of the progress Pakistan claimed to make elsewhere in the northwest of the country.