Evacuees line up to board a C-17 aircraft in support of the Afghanistan evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport on Aug. 21, 2021, in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Evacuees line up to board a C-17 aircraft in support of the Afghanistan evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport on Aug. 21, 2021, in Kabul, Afghanistan. (Taylor Crul/U.S. Air Force via Getty Images)

With the U.S. military evacuation of Afghanistan completed – bringing America’s longest war to an end – 54% of U.S. adults say the decision to withdraw troops from the country was the right one, while 42% say it was wrong, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted Aug. 23-29.

A bar chart showing that the public backs Afghan troop pullout, gives Biden low marks for handling situation

The survey, conducted before the U.S. military pullout was completed, also finds that 69% of the public says the United States mostly failed in achieving its goals in Afghanistan.

The public is also broadly critical of the Biden administration’s handling of the situation in Afghanistan: Only about a quarter (26%) say the administration has done an excellent or good job; 29% say the administration has done an only fair job and 42% say it has done a poor job.

Just 7% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents rate the administration’s performance on Afghanistan positively, and fewer than half of Democrats and Democratic leaners (43%) say it has done an excellent or good job.

To assess how Americans view recent events in Afghanistan and the Biden administration’s handling of those events, Pew Research Center surveyed 10,348 U.S. adults between Aug. 23-29, 2021. Most of the interviewing was conducted before the Aug. 26 suicide bombing at Kabul airport, and all of it was conducted before the completion of the evacuation. Everyone who took part is a member of the Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. Read more about the ATP’s methodology.

Here are the questions used for the report, along with responses, and its methodology.

The survey was conducted as the U.S. was engaged in a massive evacuation effort to bring Americans and Afghan allies of the U.S. out of Afghanistan. Most of the survey was conducted before the Aug. 26 suicide bombing at Kabul’s international airport that killed as many as 169 Afghans and 13 U.S. service members. (The survey finds little overall change in attitudes before and after the suicide attack.)

A bar chart showing that Democrats are less likely than Republicans to view Taliban control of Afghanistan as a major security threat to the U.S.

With the Taliban now in control of Afghanistan, most Americans believe the situation in that country poses a security threat to the U.S., with 46% saying Taliban control represents a major threat and another 44% saying it is a minor threat. Republicans (61%) are far more likely than Democrats (33%) to view a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan as a major security threat.

Partisanship is evident in most, though not all, attitudes about the emerging situation in Afghanistan. Views are most polarized when it comes to the decision to withdraw: A sizable majority of Democrats (70%) support the decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan, while most Republicans (64%) say it was the wrong decision.

A bar chart showing that Republicans oppose U.S. troop pullout; both parties say U.S. failed to meet goals in Afghanistan

Republicans and Democrats also differ (though to a lesser degree) on the initial decision to take military action in Afghanistan two decades ago. About two-thirds of Republicans (69%) say the initial decision to use U.S. military force in Afghanistan was right, compared with 44% of Democrats. Republicans have long been more likely than Democrats to view the initial decision as the right one.

Yet there is notable agreement among members of both parties that the U.S. mostly failed in achieving its goals in Afghanistan. Nearly identical majorities of Republicans (70%) and Democrats (69%) say the U.S. failed to accomplish its goals there.

A large majority (71%) of Americans say the Biden administration has done a poor (42%) or only fair (29%) job handling the situation in Afghanistan. Just 26% say that the Biden administration has done an excellent (6%) or good job (21%) handling the situation in Afghanistan.

A bar chart showing that fewer than half of Democrats express positive views of Biden on Afghanistan

Republicans overwhelmingly rate the administration’s handling of the situation in Afghanistan as poor (77%), with just 7% rating it as either excellent or good. Democratic opinion is more divided: About four-in-ten (43%) rate the job the Biden administration has done as excellent or good, while a narrow majority of Democrats (55%) say that the administration has done an only fair (40%) or poor (15%) job.

Conservative Republicans are more likely than moderate or liberal Republicans (86% vs. 61%) to rate the job the Biden administration has done as poor.

Among Democrats, there are no ideological differences in evaluations of the Biden administration’s handling of the situation in Afghanistan.

Note: Here are the questions used for the report, along with responses, and its methodology.

Ted Van Green  is a research analyst focusing on U.S. politics and policy at Pew Research Center.
Carroll Doherty  is director of political research at Pew Research Center.