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Afghanistan One Year Later: What Does America Really Think?

Afghanistan Defeat
Image: Creative Commons.

One year after the surrender, Americans remain deeply unsettled about the end of the war: Last September, TIPP did some of the earliest polling on how Americans viewed the fall of Afghanistan. This data revealed strong concerns about the potential for Afghanistan to be a base for future terrorist attacks against the United States, a desire to retain counter-terrorism capabilities in the country, and a disinclination to recognize the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan (although there was a stronger partisan split on this question with 40% liberals likely to support the move as opposed to only 13% of conservatives).

Earlier this month, TIPP revisited the topic in anticipation of the one-year anniversary of the end of America’s “longest war” with three questions on whether or not the fall of Afghanistan was a “generational setback” for the United States, on whether or not the fall of Afghanistan encouraged Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine, and on whether or not Afghanistan might be exploited for future terrorist attacks on the United States.

A majority of Americans (53%) agreed that the fall of Afghanistan was indeed a “generational setback” for the United States.  Although conservatives were more likely to agree at 64% versus 47% of moderates and 45% of liberals, for no group did a majority disagree with the statement.


Views on a connection between the fall of Afghanistan and Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine in light of perceived American weakness fall on similar lines, with about a half of respondents agreeing and a quarter disagreeing. Again, there was a partisan split with 59% of conservatives agreeing compared to 42% of moderates and 43% of liberals.

On the final question, regarding concerns about a future terrorist attack on the United States from Afghanistan, however, there was far greater unity with a majority of all three groups agreeing. Only 11% of conservatives, 17% of moderates and 27% of liberals disagreed, indicating that even as we approach the 21st anniversary of the 911 attacks, those memories remain fresh.

Notably, for the first two questions, roughly a quarter of those polled responded they were not sure, suggesting a significant number are still processing the ramifications of the end of the war in Afghanistan. But for the third question on concerns about future attacks that number dropped to 8%, including 5% of conservatives and 6% of liberals, clearly indicating this is a major worry for most Americans.

The TIPP polling was done before the strike on Ayman al Zawahiri, the head of al Qaeda, who moved into a former USAID villa in Kabul after the U.S. departed. While the Biden administration tried to frame the strike as a vindication of their claims that they would retain “over the horizon” counter-terrorism capabilities, it could also be understood as an indication of how very permissive an environment for terrorism has been created by the Taliban, and it will be interesting to see what future data reveals.

Victoria Coates is a Distinguished Fellow in Strategic Studies at the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, DC. In the Trump administration, she served as Deputy National Security Advisor for the Middle East and North Africa, as well as Senior Policy Advisor to the Secretary of Energy.

Written By

Victoria Coates joined the American Foreign Policy Council as a Distinguished Fellow in Strategic Studies in January 2022. Coates works on regional issues such as energy policy, countering predatory Chinese activity, expanding the historic Abraham Accords between Israel and Muslim-majority nations, and establishing a U.S.-led Middle East strategic alliance. Coates routinely appears on TV and radio outlets such as Fox News, CNN, OANN, Newsmax, The Hugh Hewitt Show, The Erick Erickson Show, and The John Batchelor show. Her writing has appeared in Bloomberg,, The Jerusalem Post, The New York Post, Newsweek, The National Interest, National Review, The New Criterion, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Examiner, and The Washington Times.



  1. 404Forbidden

    August 15, 2022 at 3:22 am

    Afghanistan (like nam) showed entire world it wanted to be nobody’s lackey or minion, so it was successful in kicking out US-NATO, the most powerful military force in the milky way Galaxy.

    This last august, just before midnight Aug 31 2021 local time, the last American military commander left Kabul airport.

    But what does USA think.USA still thinks world is its oyster despite most unsavoury Afghanistan experience.

    Thus you have Biden having his proxy wars in Europe, Syria, Africa, and dozens more in unknown places around the globe.While Haitian refugees attempt a swim to Florida shores.

    Biden, like his predecessors, can’t understand what Afghanistan meant to USA.The mind becomes blank, thanks to mental block caused by world-is-my-oyster mentality.

  2. David Chang

    August 15, 2022 at 8:36 am

    God bless people in the world.

    People in Afghan should oppose democracy which Democratic party and Communist party say.

    People in Afghan should worship God, obey Ten Commandments, but oppose socialism and liberation theology.

    God bless Afghan.

  3. OIF Combat Vet

    August 15, 2022 at 11:05 am

    The corporate media fake news blackout on Afghanistan has continued to carry water for Biden and his regime of anti-American tools. Unforgivable, the media, the deep state department, the Pentagon, the chiefs of staff and Biden have American blood on their hands. Never forgive and never forget.

  4. Dale Harmon

    August 15, 2022 at 2:26 pm

    Afghanistan is the latest reminder that a foreign power, no matter how powerful, can prop up forever an unpopular incompetent government. In South Vietnam the government fell about 3 years after the U.S. withdrew combat forces. The general expectation was that the Afghan government would survive at least 6 months after the withdraw of U.S. combat forces. (WSJ June 23, 2021) Instead it collapsed immediately.

    The contrast with Ukraine could not be more stark. No foreign combat troops prop up the Ukrainian government. Instead it was legitimately elected by the majority of the voters in the country.

    Americans should never be asked to expend resources and lives for people who are not willing to fight for their own freedom. At the same time, America should always come to the aid of those who will fight for their freedom such as Ukraine.

  5. Ghost Tomahawk

    August 15, 2022 at 2:31 pm

    Left and moderates tend to be less patriotic. So their numbers are always meh on American prestigue on the world stage.

    Fact of the matter is the Biden forecasted his entire administration with this 1 event. He took an event he was prepared to make and flat out failed in every conceivable way. This trend continued to his foreign policy, his economic policy, his domestic policy and his energy policy. FAILURE. He killed the economy not covid. He abandoned our people in Afghanistan. He opened the border for everything. He poured gasoline on racial tensions Obama stoked for 8 years. He green lighted defund the police and bail reform..and said he didnt. He obliterated our domestic energy sector and then back tracked to save his party for a mid term theyre still going to lose. On and on and on and on

    So if you voted for Biden. This is for you. FAILURE.

  6. Omega 13

    August 17, 2022 at 11:09 am

    Biden failed in his withdrawl plan. And then (of course) he blamed it on Trump.

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