WASHINGTON – US public support for the Afghan war and President Barack Obama's handing of the conflict has hit an all-time low after the leak of secret military documents, a poll showed Tuesday.
Obama's overall ratings also declined to a new low, with only 41 percent of Americans saying they approved of his performance, according to the USA Today/Gallup poll -- his worst showing since taking office in January 2009.
The percentage of Americans who say the United States made a mistake in sending troops to Afghanistan rose to 43 percent, compared to 38 percent before the release of tens of thousands of classified documents on the war.
Public confidence in Obama's war policy has also plunged to 36 percent, down from 48 percent in February survey, the poll said.
Even though he has failed to make a sizeable dent in high US unemployment, Obama received a slightly better rating for his management of the economy than for the war, with 39 percent supporting his handling of the economy.
Growing public doubt about the Afghan war came as the death toll for US troops in July hit a record high of 66.
US reinforcements are trying to drive back Taliban insurgents in the south with the last units of a 30,000-strong surge of troops due to swell American numbers to 100,000 in the coming weeks.
The leak of 92,000 secret US government documents on the war has provided more ammunition to opponents of the mission, who point to files alleging Pakistan -- a US ally -- has cultivated links with Islamist insurgents in Afghanistan.
US officials have condemned the website WikiLeaks for releasing the documents, and the poll showed most Americans agree the papers should not have been posted on the Internet.
The survey said 66 percent of Americans said it was wrong for the website to have published the files, while 25 percent said WikiLeaks was in the right.
Obama on Monday defended the war effort, saying there were signs of progress and that the administration's goals were within reach.
"We face huge challenges in Afghanistan," he told an audience of military veterans. "But it's important that the American people know that we are making progress and we're focused on goals that are clear and achievable."
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in an interview aired Sunday that there were encouraging signs in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar, with security improving and advances on the economic front.
But Obama's fellow Democrats in Congress have expressed dismay about the results of a much-touted offensive in the Marjah area of Helmand province, where the Kabul government and police have struggled to assert authority in the former Taliban stronghold.
Obama faces declining support for the war among Democrats in Congress. Last week, lawmakers backed Obama's request for war funding, but by a narrower margin than in 2009.
More violence was reported in southern Afghanistan on Tuesday. A Taliban suicide squad armed with bombs and rockets attacked the US military base in Kandahar, injuring one NATO soldier and two civilians.
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, meanwhile, said in an interview with the French newspaper Le Monde that NATO-led forces "are losing the war against the Taliban" in Afghanistan.
"This is above all because we have lost the battle to win hearts and minds," he said.
The USA Today/Gallup poll is based on telephone interviews with 1,208 Americans, carried out from July 27 to August 1. The survey had a margin of error of three percentage points.
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