Majority of Afghans back talks with Taliban: Poll

An overwhelming majority of Afghans support the government`s efforts to negotiate peace with Taliban insurgents, according to a poll released today.

Updated: Nov 09, 2010, 14:59 PM IST

Kabul: An overwhelming majority of Afghans
support the government`s efforts to negotiate peace with Taliban insurgents, according to a poll released today that ranks insecurity as the top concern among citizens, followed
by unemployment and corruption.

Eighty-three percent of Afghan adults back efforts to
secure the country through negotiations with armed,
anti-government groups, the survey conducted by the Asia
Foundation said. That`s up from 71 per cent last year.

Moreover, 81 per cent 10 per cent more than last year
support programs to lure Taliban foot soldiers off the
battlefield by providing assistance, jobs and housing to those
who lay down their arms and reintegrate into society.

President Hamid Karzai has made reconciliation a top
priority and recently formed a 70-member High Peace Council to
find a political solution to the war, now in its 10th year.

Officials in both the government and the NATO military
coalition in Afghanistan have confirmed that contacts are
being made with top insurgent leaders, but say no formal peace
talks are yet under way.

The Taliban has denied that any of their top leaders
are talking with the government. However, reconciliation is
gaining support across the war-weary nation, according to the
poll. Nearly three quarters of all respondents think
government reconciliation efforts will succeed in helping
stabilise the country.

Support for a peace process is highest in areas where
fighting is the most intense. Eighty-nine per cent of Afghans
in the east, and 85 per cent in the southeast and northwest
back reconciliation talks with the Taliban, the survey said.
More than 6,400 adults were polled in June and July in
all 34 provinces, excluding some dangerous areas. The survey,
conducted with financial backing from the US Agency for
International Development, has a margin of error of plus or
minus 4.4 percentage points.

According to the survey, 37 per cent believe
insecurity is the nation`s biggest problem. Twenty-eight
percent of those surveyed cited unemployment as the worst
problem and 27 percent noted corruption, the poll said.
"Since 2006, insecurity and unemployment have
consistently been identified as the biggest problems for the
country as a whole," according to a more than 200-page report
on the survey.

Rising numbers of Afghans are complaining about graft
and bribery. Last year, 17 per cent said corruption was the
worst problem facing the nation. This year, that figure jumped
to 27 per cent.

PTI