Amid British furor over Afghan rescue mission, war support plummets
The day after New York Times reporter Stephen Farrell was released by British commandos, a new poll finds growing opposition to the UK's troop commitment to the war.
A storm of controversy in Britain over a deadly rescue mission in Afghanistan is coinciding with a new poll that shows plummeting support for the war – something that could strain US ties with its closest NATO allies and present more obstacles to President Obama's push for the alliance to send more troops.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Britain is the second-largest contributor of troops to the NATO mission. But doubts about conflict's direction have turned Britons hostile towards an increased military commitment there.
Widespread allegations of election fraud are undermining international support for Afghan President Hamid Karzai. And the rescue of kidnapped journalist Stephen Farrell, which resulted in the deaths of one commando and Mr. Farrell's interpreter, Sultan Munadi, has only underscored concerns about a rising military death toll.
The new poll, conducted by the German Marshall Fund, asked voters if they would support a request from President Obama to increase troop levels. Huge majorities across Europe were opposed, with 75 percent of Britons and 86 percent of Germans saying Obama's request should be turned down.
The poll also found that 41 percent of Britons want their troops withdrawn entirely and a further 19 percent want the troop level reduced. The poll found 41 percent of Germans want a full withdrawal and 16 percent want a troop reduction.
Majorities in all countries surveyed indicated increasing support for economic reconstruction, except in Britain, where 49 percent approved.
Polling was carried out in late June, before both the daring commando raid to free Mr. Farrell on Wednesday and a German airstrike last Friday that killed 70 people, some of them civilians, in the previously quiescent Afghan province of Kunduz.
Both events, at least for now, have increased opposition to the war.
In Britain, the operation to free Farrell might have been widely greeted with somber pride in another climate, but instead, questions are being raised about the wisdom of going ahead with the raid.
Criticism of journalist
Military commentators have criticized Farrell, a respected journalist with joint British-Irish citizenship who was also briefly abducted in Iraq in 2004, for apparently ignoring warnings not to venture into a Taliban-controlled area where he was kidnapped.
Farrell told The New York Times, his employer, that he had received information that the road to the village hit by the airstrike and where he was taken hostage, was safe.
Britain's beleaguered Prime Minister Gordon Brown is also drawing flak as a result of the raid, which the British government today confirmed was sanctioned by Mr. Brown's defense and foreign ministers following consultations with him.
"Ordinary people everywhere are now saying that the government has got to provide a time scale for withdrawal," says Rose Gentle, a Glasgow mother whose son died serving in Iraq and who now jointly chairs the campaign group Military Families Against the War.
Brown battles to shore up support
Unnamed hostage negotiators who were said to be within days of securing a peaceful release expressed anger at the decision to stage the operation, according to The Times of London.