Evolution of attitudes in Europe
While less strong than in the US, on the whole, there was initially (2004), also considerable support in a number of European countries to send or (for some countries) to retain their troops in Afghanistan. Majorities favored this in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom . In other countries (Portugal, Spain, Turkey) this was much
Figure 5.9 Support for participation in war in Afghanistan/war against terrorism, US (2001-2010) (in % 'support/agree')
Note: for wording of questions, see note to Figure 5.11 Sources: various.
less the case, however, and in Poland no more than a quarter favored having Polish troops in Afghanistan in 2004.
Across the board, after 2005, majorities of the publics in most if not all of Europe, however, rapidly lost most of the optimism they may have had on the outcome of the war, and most of their confidence in the military operation. Instead, many would rather like to see their troops to be withdrawn from Afghanistan as soon as possible.37 This is shown in Figure 5.10 on the basis of a series of observations from France, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland and the UK. Looking at the average trend, one should keep in mind that looked at in isolation this line hides important differences among countries that are partly due also to differences in question wording.
Since 2005, support fluctuated in irregular patterns, but, remarkably, there was not the secular decline of support that was characteristic for the US (mainly because support was already at a low level to begin with) (Figure 5.10).
Figure 5.10 Support for participation in war in Afghanistan/war against terrorism, Europe (2001-2010) (in % 'support/agree')
Sources: various. For wording of questions see Figure 5.11.
The transatlantic gap was originally in the 20-25 percent range on the issue of supporting the war in Afghanistan in general, but it gradually diminished to 15-20 percent, which was mainly due to a more rapid decline of support in the US, which brought American opinion closer to the European average. The patterns on both sides of the Atlantic were similar, however. This is shown in Figure 5.11.
Figure 5.11 Support for participation in war in Afghanistan/war against terrorism,
US and Europe (2001-2010) (in % 'support/agree')
Sources: United States - averages of various questions, including:
- 2001: 'Would you support or oppose the United States taking military action against any nation found to be aiding or hiding terrorists?'
- 2001-2003: 'Do you approve or disapprove of the current US military action in the war on terrorism?'
- 2001-2002: 'Do you support or oppose the US military action being taken in response to the terrorist attacks?'
- 2001-2002: 'Do you approve or disapprove of the military attacks led by the United States against targets in Afghanistan?'
- 2001-2002: 'Do you favor or oppose the use of US ground troops in Afghanistan?' 2001-2010: 'Thinking now about US military action in Afghanistan that began in October 2001: Do you think the United States made a mistake in sending military forces to Afghanistan, or not?'
- 2006- 2010: 'Do you think the US made the right decision or the wrong decision in using military force in Afghanistan?'
- 2007- 2010: 'Thinking now about Afghanistan, all in all, considering the costs to the United States versus the benefits to the United States, do you think the war in Afghanistan was worth fighting, or not?'
Europe - averages of different questions for various countries:
- 2001-2002: 'Are you personally in favor or opposed to an intervention by France in the framework of a military alliance to reply to the terrorist attacks on the United States?' 2005-2010: various wordings Germany:
- 2001: 'Do you support the participation of German soldiers in the military actions in response to the attacks on the USA?
- 2001: 'Some countries and all NATO member states have agreed to participate in the military action against Afghanistan. Do you agree or disagree that Germany should take part in the United States military action against Afghanistan?'
- 2003-2010: various wordings Netherlands:
- 2001- August 2006, various wordings
August 2006 -2009: Ministry of Defence, monthly poll, 'Do you support or oppose the mission in Uruzgan?'
2002- 2010: ['Should Polish troops participate in the war in Afghanistan?']
- 2001: 'Now that the US has taken military action, do you support or oppose British troops being involved in this action?'
- 2001: 'Do you approve or disapprove of the military action by the United States and Britain against Afghanistan?'2002-2010: various wordings