Monday, January 02, 2006

How long is it likely to take before Iraqi troops are really able to stand up and allow U.S. troops to stand down? Let's ask the U.S. troops themselves:

How soon do you think the Iraqi military will be ready to replace large numbers of American troops?

Less than a year 2%
1-2 years 27%
3-5 years 40%
5-10 years 17%
More than 10 years 7%
No opinion/no answer 6%

How long do you think the U.S. will need to stay in Iraq to reach its goals?

Less than a year 2%
1-2 years 11%
3-5 years 35%
5-10 years 30%
More than 10 years 15%
No opinion/no answer 6%

Yup -- nearly two thirds think it will take at least three years for the Iraqis to replace a lot of American troops, and 80% think the U.S. will have to be in Iraq for at least three more years.

These results come from a poll of readers of the Military Times newspapers -- Army Times, Navy Times, Air Force Times, and Marine Corps Times -- a majority of whom have deployed to Iraq and/or Afghanistan. (Main story and links to results and related stories here.)

In this poll, right-wingers will seize on the fact that the troops say their morale is high and think the press doesn't report enough good news from Iraq; Bush critics will seize on this:

Support for President Bush and for the war in Iraq has slipped significantly...

Approval of the president's Iraq policy fell 9 percentage points from 2004; a bare majority, 54 percent, now say they view his performance on Iraq as favorable. Support for his overall performance fell 11 points, to 60 percent, among active-duty readers of the Military Times newspapers....

The poll also found diminished optimism that U.S. goals in Iraq can be accomplished, and a somewhat smaller drop in support for the decision to go to war in 2003....

And this is interesting:

As in the previous two years, Military Times Poll respondents were reluctant to express opinions, even anonymously, about the commander in chief or his policies. About one in five refused to say whether they approved of the president's performance on Iraq or overall.

"That's my boss," Army Lt. Col. Earnestine Beatty said in a follow-up interview. "I can't comment."

So the troops are still upbeat, but less so -- and when you hear that big numbers of troops can probably come home this year, remember that the troops don't believe that.

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