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An Afghanistan flag waves in front of the U.S. Capitol on Aug. 28. Photo: Liz Lynch/Getty Images

Some swing voters say they're deeply disappointed with the execution of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Yes, but: They don't believe former President Trump would have handled it better than President Biden, and the issue is far less important to them than getting the pandemic under control.

The big picture: These were some of the key takeaways from Axios' latest Engagious/Schlesinger focus groups. The Sept. 14 sessions involved 10 swing-state voters around the country, who backed Trump in 2016 but switched to Biden in 2020.

  • While a focus group is not a statistically significant sample like a poll, the responses show how some voters in crucial states are thinking and talking about current events.

Why it matters: Chaos, deaths, uncertainty, images of the U.S. retreat and the instant rise of the Taliban have driven negative headlines. They also created a major crisis for a president who ran on his foreign policy credentials, competency and instincts for calm and order.

  • The political question is how damaging the exit from Afghanistan will be for Biden and his party, heading into 2022 midterms in which Republicans could retake one or both chambers of Congress.

Details: Nine of the 10 said they agreed with Biden's decision to withdraw but were unhappy with the way it was executed.

  • Seven of 10 said the level of chaos was not inevitable, and that more planning should have gone into its execution.
  • Only 1 of the 10 said they believe Trump would have handled it better.
  • All 10 voters said the pandemic would be a more important issue for them than Afghanistan when the midterm elections come around.

What we're watching: Voters said their perceptions of Biden took a hit as a result of the Afghanistan withdrawal. It shook their confidence in his leadership and forced them to reengage with daily news coverage — something they'd burned out on during the Trump era.

  • Voters said they'd rejoiced in being able to largely ignore the news — until now.
  • Stephanie C. from North Carolina, 38, said now she intends to keep a closer eye on the president’s handling of international issues.
  • “I was pretty much devastated by the way everything went down,” said Elisa S. from Florida, 53.

The bottom line: "The only silver lining for Biden is they don’t think Trump would have handled the withdrawal any better,” said Rich Thau, president of Engagious, who moderated the focus groups.

Go deeper

Oct 14, 2021 - World

Taliban press Biden to release frozen Afghan assets as economy shrivels

Afghans wait outside a bank in hopes of withdrawing cash, watched by a Taliban fighter. Photo: Wakil Kohsar/AFP via Getty

With the Afghan government and economy starved of cash, the Taliban are pressing their claim to the roughly $8 billion in Afghan foreign reserves that have been frozen by the U.S.

Why it matters: Afghanistan is barreling into a humanitarian crisis, and donor countries and international institutions have cut off the aid that accounted for some 75% of the previous government’s budget.

Updated 11 mins ago - World

Up to 17 U.S. missionaries kidnapped in Haiti

Haitian soldiers guard the public prosecutor's office in Port-au-Prince earlier this month. Photo: Richard Pierrin/AFP via Getty Images

Children were among up to 17 American Christian missionaries and their relatives kidnapped by a gang in Haiti on Saturday, the New York Times first reported.

Details: The missionaries had just left an orphanage and were traveling by bus to the airport to "drop off some members" and planned to travel to another destination afterward when the gang abducted them in Port-au-Prince, Haitian security officials said, per the NYT.

46 mins ago - World

Melbourne, "world's most locked-down city," to lift stay-at-home orders

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews during a news conference in Melbourne, Australia, on Sunday. Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Melbourne's stay-at-home orders will end five days earlier than planned, officials in Australia's second-biggest city announced Sunday.

Why it matters: The capital of the state of Victoria has had six lockdowns totaling 262 days since March last year. That means Melbourne's spent longer under lockdowns than "any other city in the world" during the pandemic, Reuters notes.