Europeans split on Afghanistan troop surge

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Nearly half of people in four big west European states believe that Barack Obama, US president, should send no more troops at all to Afghanistan rather than contemplating the dispatch of up to 44,000 additional soldiers, according to an opinion poll for the Financial Times.

As Mr Obama continues to mull over whether he will send more combat troops to Afghanistan, the Harris poll shows that close to half of people in France, Germany and Italy believe the US should send no more while exactly half of Spaniards take that view.

However, support for a big troop uplift is stronger in the US. Here, Harris finds that some 29 per cent of Americans say they want to see no more troops sent at all. Among the options for a possible troop uplift, some 20 per cent of Americans say they would support an increase as big as 40,000.

Elsewhere, there are signs that voters are still prepared to give the Nato mission time to make progress, in spite of growing public disquiet.

A majority of people in the US and the big states of western Europe believe that Nato troops should remain in Afghanistan for at least one more year rather than be withdrawn immediately by their host governments.

Despite the considerable rise in the number of Nato fatalities since the summer, most people in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the US want troops to stay for at least another 12 months.

In Britain, 56 per cent of respondents said non-US Nato troops should stay in Afghanistan, against 44 per cent who said they should be withdrawn immediately. Some 65 per cent said US troops should also stay at least a year,

There was a similar breakdown in the results across the rest of Europe, with 57 per cent of French respondents and 62 per cent of German citizens saying the troops should stay.

However, in two European states – Britain and Germany – nearly half of respondents believe the war will not be successful at all.

The different perspectives on the debate on Afghanistan come through in some of the answers.

Only 9 per cent of Britons, for example, believe non-US troops serving in Afghanistan are adequately equipped for the challenge, a figure that reflects the debate in Britain over the lack of helicopters and properly armoured vehicles for UK forces.

Yet these concerns are not shared to the same degree across Europe, with 36 per cent of French respondents, for example, saying Nato troops are adequately equipped.

The poll also examines attitudes in Europe and the US to Mr Obama’s performance.

More than half of people in Britain, Spain and the US believe he should not have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last month, although the award had a better reception in Italy and Germany.

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