Monday, December 3, 2007

Poll: NATO support plummets in south, negotiations wanted

The Associated Press reports on a new poll commissioned by ABC, the BBC and a German TV network:

The poll has found that in southwestern Afghanistan, support for NATO-led forces has plummeted to 45 per cent this year, from 83 per cent a year ago.

According to the survey, the civilian casualties blamed on the international forces is a prime complaint. ...

The survey found that 42 per cent of Afghans rate U.S. efforts in Afghan positively, down from 68 per cent in 2005 and 57 per cent last year.

Just over half of Afghans still have confidence in the ability of U.S. and NATO forces to provide security, down from two-thirds a year ago...

“Attitudes are far more negative in high-conflict areas, particularly the southwest provinces of Helmand and Kandahar, but also in western Herat and other areas that have seen Taliban attacks. Views are far more positive in the more peaceful north,” the report said.

In the southwest, the birthplace of the Taliban movement and an area of intense combat, two-thirds of Afghans rated U.S. efforts negatively. Twenty-three per cent of respondents there said local people support the Taliban — three times more than last year and compared to only eight per cent nationally.

Last year, 81 per cent of residents in the southwest said the Taliban had “no significant support at all.” Now, only 52 per cent say so.

Despite the increasingly negative view of U.S. activities in their country, 71 per cent of Afghans still support the American presence, and 76 per cent view the Taliban's overthrow as a good thing.

More than a third say the Taliban are the prime cause of violence in the country, followed by 22 per cent who blame al-Qaeda and foreign fighters. Nineteen per cent cite international forces or the U.S. government as the primary cause. (link)

Other results of the poll have prompted consternation:
Despite the Taliban's very negative reputation -- and partly linked to perceptions of its strength -- 60 percent of Afghans say the Karzai government should negotiate a settlement in which Taliban leaders would be allowed to hold political office in exchange for laying down their arms. Support for a settlement is 16 points higher among those who think the Taliban has grown stronger rather than weaker; and it peaks, at 88 percent, in its home base, Kandahar. ...

In another troubling result, favorable opinions of Osama bin Laden have increased in the Southwest from 1 percent last year to 15 percent now. ...

There's been a decline in the number of Afghans who say U.S. forces should remain in their country either until security is restored, or permanently -- now 49 percent, down from 60 percent last year. Just 14 percent desire immediate withdrawal; most of the rest divide between a one- or two-year time frame.

While they remain, these forces clearly face danger -- not just from Taliban and other fighters, but from a substantial segment of the population. Seventeen percent of Afghans say attacks on U.S. forces can be justified. That rises to 26 percent in Southwest overall, peaking at 40 percent in Helmand, and about as high, 38 percent in Nangarhar, in the East. And it's 28 percent among Pashtuns, vs. 10 percent among all other Afghans. (link)
Note that some 88% of Kandaharis want to see a negotiated solution to the conflict. Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier, on the other hand, has said "Canada does not negotiate with terrorists". It seems that the majoritarian aspirations of Kandaharis have met the same fate as those of Palestinians. In 2006, Harper's government was the first to reject the results of the election in Palestine which returned a Hamas government.

Rights of women
Those who champion the US/NATO war as a way to bring liberation to Afghan women may be somewhat vexed to read that less than half of rural women in Afghanistan have positive views about the status of women's rights:
Across the country, 60 percent of Afghans give a positive rating to "the rights of women" in their community. But that's down from 71 percent a year ago, down particularly, by 21 points, among women living in rural areas; and by 22 points among unmarried women.

While the condition of women's rights is rated positively by eight in 10 urban men and women alike, that falls to 58 percent of men in rural areas -- and just 48 percent of rural women. And more than three-quarters of Afghanistan's population is rural. [The poll also found that 46% of rural women strongly support wearing the burka.] (link - op cit)

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