Afghan support for Taliban declining: Poll

Support for the Taliban among Afghans has steadily declined in recent years and people are feeling a growing sense of insecurity.

Kabul: Support for the Taliban among Afghans has steadily declined in recent years and people are feeling a growing sense of insecurity, according to a survey funded in part by the U.S. government.

The survey released Tuesday by the San Francisco-based Asia Foundation also found that an overwhelming majority of Afghan adults, 82 percent, back reconciliation and reintegration efforts with insurgent groups. It said that the number of people who said they sympathized with the aims of Taliban had dropped to 29 percent compared to 40 percent last year and 56 percent in 2009.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been making peace overtures to the Taliban for years with the backing of the international community. However the survey was conducted in July, nearly two months before the Sept. 20 assassination of former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was leading the government`s U.S.-backed effort to broker peace with the Taliban. He was killed by an assassin who claimed to be an emissary from the Taliban, dealing a major setback to efforts to find a political resolution to the 10-year-old war.

The survey also found that nearly half of those asked, or 46 percent, thought the country was moving in the right direction. Reconstruction and rebuilding, good security in some areas and improvements in the education system were the main reasons. But for the first time since the survey began in 2004, a rising number now think that Afghanistan is moving in the wrong direction — an increase to 35 percent from 27 last year.

Although the survey said a majority of Afghans were satisfied with the performance of the government, it did not address the issue of whether they were satisfied with the country`s leadership or its president. Karzai has been criticized by the Afghan opposition and by the international community for not doing enough to combat corruption, and for ignoring institutions such as the parliament.

In 2011, for the first time, the majority of respondents said corruption was a major problem in all facets of daily life.

Sixty-four percent said corruption was a major problem in their provincial government and 76 percent said they thought corruption was a major problem for Afghanistan as a whole.

"The majority of respondents say that the government is doing a bad job in fighting corruption," the survey report said.

The survey also found that although Afghans expressed increased satisfaction with the government`s performance in delivering services that was not the case for the performance of democratic institutions. "Since 2008, there has been a steady rise in those who say they are dissatisfied with the way democracy works in the country," the survey said.

Insecurity was identified as the biggest problem in the country by 38 percent of those polled, especially in the south and east where insurgents are fighting Afghan security forces and U.S.-led coalition troops. It was followed by unemployment, corruption and poverty. Of those asked, 71 percent said they feared travelling from one part of Afghanistan to another.

"Security is the biggest problem for Afghans," said Asia Foundation President David Arnold. "Afghans told the Asia Foundation that issues of security and conflict influence their perceptions about the future."

Although roughly half of those polled thought the Afghan police and army were "unprofessional and poorly trained," a growing number of people thought they were steadily improving. There was also a small reduction in the number of people who feel the two security forces can operate without foreign help, although a majority think they can`t — 65 percent for the police and 60 percent for the army.

"The fact that the majority of respondents still have a negative perception on these issues highlights ongoing concerns about insecurity, which is consistently identified as the most important problem facing the country," the survey found.


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