17:25 Secretary Clinton, the new ABC News/Washington Post poll (states) sixty percent of the American people say the war in Afghanistan is not worth fighting anymore. That’s a high. Considering that the US withdrawal date is not until 2014. How can the Obama administration continue to wage this war with so little public support?
18:22 Well first Jake, I think it is important to remember, as the president reminded us once again, why we are fighting this war. We all understand the stresses that this war causes first and foremost on the men and women of the military and our civilian forces who are there and their families. And we certainly understand the budgetary demands that are called for, but it’s our assessment backed up by 49 other nations that are also committing their troops, their civilians, their taxpayer’s dollars… that this is critical to our national security. Obviously if we had concluded otherwise, we would have made different decisions. But having inherited what we did, and having spent an intensive period of time in 2009 reviewing every possible approach, and frankly listening to quite contrasting points of view about the way forward, the president and we agreed that this was a commitment that we had, to not only to continue, but we had to adopt a new strategy. We had to resource it more and we had to pursue it, and the diagnostic review that we have just undertaken, that we’ve described to you, has concluded that we are making gains on that strategy.
19:23 I’m well aware of the popular concern and I understand it, but I don’t think leaders, and certainly this president will not make decisions that are matters of life and death, and the future security of our nation based on polling. That would not be something you will see him or any of us deciding. We’re trying to do the very best we can with the leadership that we’ve all been entrusted with, to avoid making the mistakes that were made previous years, where we did not develop the kind of relationship and understanding and coordination with either Afghanistan or Pakistan that would enable us to have a better way of interacting with them and perhaps preventing some of what came to pass. And (we’re) frankly we walked away at some critical moments in the last 25, 30 years. That created conditions that we had a hand in, and unfortunately contributing to. So I think it is understandable.
20:43 I am very respectful of the feelings of the American people but the question I would ask is: How do you feel about a continuing American commitment that is aimed at protecting you and your family now and into the future? Because that’s the question that we’ve asked and that’s how we’ve answered it.
This response by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton sounded so familiar. In an exit interview given by then Vice President Cheney to Jim Lehrer, the Vice President also answered a question about polls in a similar manner. See transcript released by the White House.
Q Okay. Why do you believe that the public approval of, at least measured by the polls and other things, is so low? In your case, almost historically low. …
THE VICE PRESIDENT: We’ve tried very hard not to govern based on polls. That is to say we haven’t tailored our policies in order to appeal to polls.
In yet another poll, the state of mind and commitment of the Afghan people to this war is also low. I continue to find similarities to the War in Vietnam, where the North Vietnamese under the leadership of Ho Chin Minh defeated the South Vietnamese, who just didn’t have the commitment or will to fight. The American troops, who were attempting to stop the red tide of communism from spreading throughout Asia, were also fighting an unpopular war at home. Newspaper reports of the war, scenes of coffins arriving with the remains of US soldiers, and the My Lai massacre did not endear the American people to this war. So, in my estimate the United States of America will remain in Afghanistan past the year 2014, in an effort to distract the Taliban, to prevent them from staging any attacks on our soil. Our national security depends on how well we train Afghan soldiers to continue our fight if we decide to retreat in 2014. So I ask this question to our citizens: How do you feel about a continuing American presence in Afghanistan, which is aimed at protecting you and your family now and into the future?
But, have we already lost the hearts and minds of the people of Afghanistan?
“The growing hostility of the Afghan people to the US occupation produced by the Obama surge found expression in a poll conducted earlier this month by the Washington Post, ABC News, the British Broadcasting Corporation and Germany’s ARD television.
The survey found that more than half of the Afghan population wants the US and other foreign forces to begin their withdrawal by mid-2011, if not immediately. Three-quarters of those surveyed supported negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban, the insurgent force that the US military is attempting to annihilate. And support for the Taliban in Kandahar province, the main focus of the ongoing US surge, has increased markedly, with 45 percent saying that they view the movement favorably.”