Four years after officially removing combat troops from Iraq, the Obama administration has authorized the Pentagon to deploy up to 450 more troops to the country. The political climate in Iraq has changed drastically since the U.S. officially ended its military campaign there, with the Iraqi government struggling to defend themselves against ISIS’s growing insurgency. Obama, whose goal to end the Iraq and Afghanistan wars played a major part in his 2008 election, has been understandably cautious in terms of relaunching any combat in the region. The majority of American people view the wars Bush started as a costly mistake that’s only grown more complex in recent years.
According to a new Gallup poll, however, less Americans hold an unfavorable view of both those wars. The poll found that just 51 percent of respondents view the Iraq War as “a mistake" — still a majority, but barely. Only 42 percent believe the U.S. made a mistake by sending troops to Afghanistan. These numbers are down from last year, when 57 percent called the Iraq War a mistake and 49 percent called the Afghanistan War a mistake.
The amount of people who viewed the Iraq war as a mistake reached its peak at 63 percent in 2008, coinciding with the presidential election that brought Obama to office. Perhaps because of the Taliban’s stronghold and Osama Bin Laden’s at-large status at the time, less than 30 percent of respondents viewed the Afghanistan War as a mistake that year.
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In the same way that Obama gained support for opposing the Iraq War when regret was at its highest amongst voters, the Iraq War has been a major talking point for 2016 presidential candidates. Jeb Bush has been forced to confront his brother’s decision to initiate combat in the country, flip-flopping on the issue but ultimately claiming he would’ve authorized the same war. Hillary Clinton infamously voted in support of the Iraq War, which she’s since claimed was one of her biggest mistakes in office.
Clinton’s view aligns with that of the Democratic Party. In the same Gallup poll, 68 percent of Democrats claimed the Iraq War was a mistake, compared to 31 percent of those in the Republican Party. 53 percent of Democrats had the same view about Afghanistan, compared to 27 percent of Republicans.
According to The Atlantic, the Obama administration described that the 450 authorized troops would be used “to train, advise, and assist Iraqi Security Forces at Taqaddum military base in eastern Anbar province.” It’s still a step behind re-introducing combat forces to the region (although the U.S. has also authorized airstrikes), but it demonstrates that the U.S. is amping up its military presence in an attempt to defend against ISIS. The U.S. is still entwined with the affairs of both Iraq and Afghanistan, and the fact that less Americans are viewing those wars with regret may signify that combat will soon begin again.
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