Britain divided on whether it was right to pull forces from Afghanistan, poll shows

The British public is split on whether withdrawing troops from Afghanistan was the right thing to do, a survey suggests.

The polling comes as Boris Johnson faced fierce criticism from senior Tories and defended the final pull-out of British troops, saying it was an “illusion” to think the international military mission could have continued without US forces.

A survey of 1,970 British adults by Ipsos MORI found that 39% said it was the right decision to completely withdraw British troops from Afghanistan this year, while 40% said it was the wrong decision.

When asked about American troops, 31% said it was the right decision for them to withdraw, while 47% said it was the wrong decision.

The survey found that 19% of those polled said Britain should not intervene at all over the next few months if the Taliban regime commits widespread human rights abuses or allows extremist groups to operate.

But 34% said Britain should step in with diplomatic and economic interventions against the regime, while 32% said Britain should step in with humanitarian interventions such as increasing support for Afghan refugees.

Some 22% of those polled said they would support military interventions such as targeted air strikes.

The survey asked what groups of people in Afghanistan should the British Government allow to move to the UK.

A total of 32% said the UK should accept any Afghans and their families who worked for UK armed forces, 15% said any Afghans and their families who worked for any Nato coalition armed forces, and 12% said any Afghan families concerned about the Taliban regime.

And 18% of those polled said Britain should not accept any Afghans – with 11% saying they should have to apply for asylum through the normal procedure and 7% saying we should not accept any Afghan refugees at all.

Ben Page, chief executive of Ipsos MORI, said: “The British public is divided over whether or not Britain was right to withdraw forces from Afghanistan, with 39% saying it was the right thing to do and 40% opposed.

“More feel America was wrong to withdraw, but even here not a majority (47%).

“In terms of what happens next, only 19% say we should do nothing; most want humanitarian measures and sanctions against the regime and humanitarian aid.”

The polling took place over August 16 and August 17.