Vets, active-duty troops back border security mission, oppose current Afghan, Iraq strategies: Poll

January 2, 2019

A majority of current and former U.S. service members support the Trump administration’s decision to deploy American troops to the U.S.-Mexico border, while opposing Washington’s ongoing military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a new poll.

Roughly 1,000 active duty troops and military veterans were interviewed as part of a joint poll conducted by the Smithsonian and Stars and Stripes newspaper, on their opinions regarding several of the Trump White House’s most controversial defense and national security policy decisions.

In the poll, a majority of the respondents said the decision to send thousands of active duty American troops to the U.S. southern border was the right decision, said a Smithsonian statement accompanying Wednesday’s release of the new poll.

But that support did not translate to any overarching support for the White House’s seemingly draconian immigration policies, it says.

“On the home front, 65 percent of respondents backed the move by President Trump to deploy armed forces at the U.S. border with Mexico,” the poll’s findings state. “At the same time, the great majority appeared to take a dim view of the administration’s proposal to deport noncitizen service members or their families,” it added.

The largest U.S. troop contingent along the southern border has been deployed to Texas, with nearly 2,800 American soldiers on station there. Another 1,500 are deployed along the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona with another 1,300 along the border in California, according to troop counts provided by U.S. Northern Command.

Mr. Trump extended the troop deployment, which had been slated to end in December, to the end of January in order to defend American territory from a migrant caravan of thousands of Mexican, Central and South American migrants seeking refuge in the United States.

On Iraq and Afghanistan, nearly 80 percent of respondents agreed that it was time to end American involvement in both countries.

“Seventeen years after the U.S.-led military invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, more than 80 percent. . . of service members and veterans surveyed agreed with the statement that the occupations have ‘been going on too long,’” the poll’s findings suggest.

The responses come less than two weeks after the Trump White House has ordered the withdrawal of 7,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan, slashing the total number of American forces in the country by half. That decision came a day after the administration announced the complete pullout of all American forces from Syria.

But a recent Pentagon assessment of the 17-year conflict claims recent gains by U.S. and Afghan forces under the Trump administration’s new South Asia strategy could be put in jeopardy if Washington presses ahead with plans to slash the number of American troops in the country.

Defense Department analysts suggested any letup in pressure from Afghan forces, and their American and NATO counterparts, against the Taliban could derail fragile efforts to get peace talks with the insurgent group off the ground.

“The reinforcement and realignment of U.S. and coalition forces and authorities under the South Asia Strategy have significantly increased pressure on the Taliban,” defense officials wrote in the report submitted to Congress late last month.

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