- About four out of 10 respondents in a new Insider poll said Bush is the president most responsible for the outcome of the war in Afghanistan.
- Biden ranked number two in the Insider survey, with 27% of respondents saying he was most responsible.
- Biden faces widespread criticism of his handling of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
- See more stories on Insider’s company page.
More Americans blame former President George W. Bush for America’s failure in Afghanistan than any other president who succeeded him, according to a new Insider survey.
About four out of ten respondents said Bush is most responsible for the outcome of the war — the Taliban regained power despite the United States’ nearly 20-year commitment there — placing him ahead of former Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump as well as current Commander-in-Chief Joe Biden.
Insider surveyed 1,105 respondents from 16-17. August through SurveyMonkey Audience. Respondents were asked to rank nine units in order of how each was responsible for the outcome of the war in Afghanistan. Here, the ranking is based on the percentage of people who placed each unit in their top three:
- Taliban, 55% ranked among the three most responsible
- Afghan leadership, 48%
- Afghan military, 41%
- George W. Bush, 34%
- US military leadership, 31%
- Joseph Biden, 29%
- Barack Obama, 21%
- Donald Trump, 22%
- US military, 20%
Looking strictly at the four presidents in the survey, 38% of those polled ranked Bush as the president most responsible for the result, 27% Biden, 19% Trump and 12% Obama.
Bush ordered the US invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001 in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The Taliban, which controlled the country at the time, had allowed Afghanistan to become a haven for Osama bin Laden and his terrorist group Al Qaeda. The United States aimed to destroy Al Qaeda, which was responsible for the 9/11 attacks through the invasion. Shortly after the 2001 invasion, Bush rejected an offer from the Taliban to discuss the delivery of bin Laden in exchange for the United States stopping bombing Afghanistan.
In December 2001, the Taliban were in retreat and bin Laden fled to Pakistan. The terrorist leader would eventually be killed by US Navy SEALs in an operation in Pakistan in 2011 under the Obama administration, but America’s war in Afghanistan continued for another decade as the Taliban led a revolt against the United States and its allies.
Obama oversaw a massive increase in U.S. troops in Afghanistan during his first term. He sought to bring American troops home by the end of his second term, but failed to achieve this.
In February 2020, Trump introduced an agreement with the Taliban to see the United States withdraw troops within 14 months, which encouraged the militants and left Afghan forces demoralized. When Trump left office, there were about 2,500 U.S. troops left in Afghanistan.
Biden, who has been monitoring the withdrawal of the U.S. military and has received widespread criticism of the handling, defended his decision to quickly remove all troops from the country on Monday. Though latest poll has shown relatively strong support for the withdrawal itself, many have rejected the implementation of the withdrawal – especially in relation to how the Biden administration has turned to helping Afghans who helped the United States during the war.
Overall, most Americans blamed the Taliban for the crisis in Afghanistan. About 55% of respondents put the militant group in their top three choices about who is most responsible for the outcome of the war. Nearly half of respondents, 48%, put Afghan leadership in their top three. Respondents also said the Afghan military was more to blame for the outcome of the war than the U.S. military.
The study comes in light of the great developments in the war-torn nation. In just over a week, Taliban forces took over most of Afghanistan’s cities and the capital, Kabul, leading to a sudden collapse of the US-backed Afghan government on Sunday. Afghans fearful of a possible return to strict Taliban rule and desperate to leave the country flooded Kabul airport. The United States, in the midst of its military withdrawal, plunged into a chaotic evacuation of U.S. citizens from its embassy.
SurveyMonkey Audience surveys from a national sample balanced with census data on age and gender. Respondents are encouraged to conduct surveys through charitable contributions. In general, digital polling tends to skew towards people with Internet access. SurveyMonkey Audience does not attempt to weigh its sample based on race or income. Voting data collected 1,105 respondents 16.-17. August 2021 with a margin of error of 3 percentage points.