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Many U.S. veterans say Iraq, Afghan wars not worth it

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A third of U.S. military veterans who have served in the armed forces since the September 11, 2001, attacks think the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were not worth fighting, a poll released on Wednesday showed.

The poll by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center found that these veterans held somewhat more positive views of those two wars that the general public in the United States but still harbored deep misgivings about the conflicts.

Thirty-three percent of the post-9/11 veterans who took part in the poll said neither of those two wars was worthwhile considering the costs versus the benefits to the United States. That compared to 45 percent of nonmilitary poll respondents who said neither war was worthwhile.

U.S. forces were sent into Afghanistan in the weeks after the 2001 attacks on the United States to topple that country's Taliban leaders who had harbored the al Qaeda leaders responsible for 9/11.

The United States led an invasion of Iraq in 2003, toppled Saddam Hussein's government, but then faced a protracted insurgency. The main justification for the war offered by the United States before the invasion was the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. No such weapons were found.

More than 4,400 U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq and almost 1,700 killed in Afghanistan, Pentagon figures show.

Looking at each war individually, 50 percent of the post-9/11 veterans said the war in Afghanistan has been worth fighting and 44 percent said the same thing about the Iraq war, according to the Pew Research Center.

In comparison, 41 percent of the U.S. public found the Afghanistan war worth the costs and 36 percent believed the Iraq war was worthwhile.

Among the post-9/11 veterans, 34 percent held the view that both of the wars were worthwhile, compared to 28 percent of the general public, according to the Pew Research Center.

The poll found that 96 percent of these veterans expressed pride in their military service. But 44 percent reported difficulties in readjusting to civilian life and 37 percent reported suffering from post-traumatic stress related to their service.

The findings were based on two nationwide surveys conducted between July 28 and September 15, one involving military veterans and the other involving the general public, Pew Research Center said. It said 1,853 veterans were surveyed, including 712 who served in the military after the 2001 attacks. The general public survey involved 2,003 U.S. adults.

(Reporting by Will Dunham)

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