The war in Afghanistan will be a powerful issue in the general election that could damage the candidacy of Republican front-runner Mitt Romney, Democratic strategists say.
"Americans are ready to be done with this war," notes Democratic pollster Geoff Garin, who adds that Romney risks alienating many voters because he opposes President Obama's plan to withdraw all U.S. combat troops by the end of 2014. Romney says the scheduled pullout is premature and may jeopardize the gains already made.
On Thursday, Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai urged an accelerated exit of Western troops as a way to avoid "painful experiences" such as the publication of photos of U.S. troops posing with body parts of slain Afghan fighters. The Los Angeles Times published those photos earlier this week.
Romney is causing problems for himself because he hasn't spelled out exactly what he would do differently from Obama and why his stance is an improvement, Garin says.
He adds that, "The desire to end the war is stronger than any other feeling across the electorate."
His assessment is reinforced by the latest poll from the Pew Research Center, which finds that support for the 10-year-old war is declining. Americans believe that progress has been slow, the country is still unstable, and the Afghan government is corrupt.
Only 32 percent of Americans now say the United States should keep troops in Afghanistan until the situation stabilizes, while 60 per cent favor withdrawal as soon as possible. In May 2011, Americans were divided equally on the question.