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Poll: Afghanistan Troop Increase Unpopular

Fewer than one in three Americans believe the number of troops in Afghanistan should be increased, a new CBS News/New York Times poll finds, despite a leaked memo from General Stanley A. McChrystal, the U.S.'s top military commander in Afghanistan, suggesting that an increase is necessary for the United States to avoid failure there.

Twenty-nine percent of those surveyed say troop levels should be increased, while thirty-two percent say they should be decreased. Another 27 percent say troop levels should be kept at the level they are now.

Still, news of McChrystal's position may have had some effect: In August, a higher percentage - 41 percent - wanted troop levels decreased, and slightly fewer (25 percent) backed a troop increase.

Americans who have been paying a lot of attention to news about Afghanistan are significantly more likely to support an increase in troops.

President Obama is now reportedly reassessing his Afghanistan strategy and considering whether to further increase troop levels. The president has already ordered the deployment of 21,000 additional troops to Afghanistan by the end of the year, bringing the U.S. total to 68,000 and the coalition total to 110,000.

Americans are split on whether the United States is doing the right thing by fighting the war in Afghanistan. Forty-seven percent, including 67 percent of Republicans, say yes. Forty-two percent, including more than half of Democrats, say no. Independents are nearly evenly divided.

More than half of those surveyed (53 percent) say things are going badly for the United States in Afghanistan, while just 35 percent say they are going well. That negative assessment is nonetheless an improvement from December, when 62 percent said things were going badly and 27 percent said they were going well.

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Most Americans think the situation in Afghanistan faced by the United States is unchanged. Twenty-six percent say it is getting worse, while just eight percent say it is improving.

Despite this overall pessimism, most Americans - 62 percent - are willing to leave large numbers of troops in Afghanistan for a year or longer. That includes 26 percent who say they should stay "as long as it takes."

Thirty-two percent want the troops brought home immediately or within the year.

Most Americans do not believe that American military action in Afghanistan has made them safer: Just 27 percent say U.S. efforts have decreased the threat of terrorism. Seventeen percent believe American efforts have instead increased the terrorism threat. A majority - 51 percent - say the threat has stayed the same.

Still, 43 percent say the terrorism threat will increase if the United States withdraws its troops. Roughly the same percentage believes the threat will stay the same.

Asked about the main goal of U.S. military action in Afghanistan, 44 percent said it was to eliminate all terrorists from the country. Another 28 percent pointed to defeating the Taliban, while nine percent cited capturing or killing Osama Bin Laden specifically.

The War in Iraq:

Americans continue to be positive about the current status of the war in Iraq, though a clear majority say that it was not worth fighting.

Fifty-seven percent say the war is going well for the United States, while 38 percent say it is going badly. Those percentages are essentially unchanged from July, though they reflect a decline in optimism from April, when 71 percent said things were going well there.

Still, two in three Americans - 67 percent - say the war was not worth the loss of life and other costs that came with it. Less than one in four (24 percent) now say the war was worth it, down from 28 percent in March of last year.

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CBS News Poll Database

This poll was conducted among a random sample of 1042 adults nationwide, interviewed by telephone September 19-23, 2009. Phone numbers were dialed from random digit dial samples of both standard land-line and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups is higher.

This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

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