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Public divided on troop increase in Afghanistan: poll

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A majority of Americans expressed confidence U.S. President Barack Obama's new Afghanistan strategy will succeed, but they are divided over how many more U.S. troops to send there, according to a Washington Post-ABC News opinion poll released Tuesday.

Obama is weighing several options for boosting U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan and is expected to announce a new war strategy in coming weeks.

The Washington Post-ABC News poll found a majority of Americans, 55 percent, are confident Obama will choose an Afghan strategy that will work.

But Americans are evenly divided about the size of a troop increase Obama should approve as part of his new approach to the war, the Post said.

General Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, has recommended an increase of 40,000 troops as the minimum for counterinsurgency to prevail.

There are already 68,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan and another 40,000 from allied nations.

U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry, who commanded U.S. troops in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007, has expressed deep concerns about committing more U.S. troops to Afghanistan until Afghan president Hamid Karzai's government moves aggressively to attack corruption and mismanagement.

Forty-six percent of those polled support a large influx of troops to fight insurgents and train the Afghan military, while 45 percent back a smaller number of new U.S. forces more narrowly focused on training, according to the poll.

Among other poll findings, 45 percent approve of how Obama is handling the situation in Afghanistan, compared with 48 percent who disapprove -- up one percentage point from a month ago. Obama's overall approval rating remains virtually unchanged at 56 percent, according to the poll.

Once an area of rare cross-party accord, nearly three-quarters of Republicans now disapprove of how Obama is dealing with Afghanistan, with a majority disapproving "strongly," the Post reported.

Approval among independents slipped to 39 percent, a new low, the poll found.

Asked whether the war has been worth fighting given the costs to the United States versus the benefits, 52 percent of respondents said it was not worth fighting. Forty-four percent said it was worth it.

The telephone poll of 1,001 adults, conducted Thursday through Sunday, has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

(Reporting by JoAnne Allen; editing by Todd Eastham)

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