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Survey Finds Afghans Optimistic, But Still Troubled by Security

A nationwide poll of Afghans released Tuesday by The Asia Foundation found more Afghans feel the country is moving in the right direction but are still concerned about security and local rebuilding projects.

Among the 6,406 face-to-face interviews conducted in all 34 provinces, 42 percent of respondents said they felt the country was generally moving in the right direction, compared to 38 percent in 2008. And 29 percent felt it is moving in the wrong direction, down from 32 percent in 2008, according to the survey.

“The Afghan people seem to be a little bit more optimistic than we are,” which goes against conventional wisdom, said Zoran Milovic, The Asia Foundation’s deputy country representative in Kabul.

Contributing toward people’s feelings of optimism include improvements the government is making to its institutions, resources from the international community, and a sense that the U.S. government is focusing politically on Afghanistan, Milovic said.

Insecurity, including violence and terrorism, was cited as the largest problem by respondents, especially in Taliban-controlled regions in the Southeast, West and Southwest. In fact, security restrictions prevented the pollsters from going to certain Taliban-controlled territories when the poll was taken June 17 to July 6, reported survey director Sunil Pillai.

As an example, Pillai cited 17 percent of Afghans as saying they or someone in their family has experienced some form of violence in the past year.

The security situation is a “touchy issue,” according to Milovic. In tightly controlled Taliban regions, people would say security is good, yet no one he spoke to would say they would like the Taliban to come back into power.

The way to reach Afghans and convince them that their lives are changing for the better is to fund infrastructure projects, such as roads, and improve services like electricity supplies, Milovic continued. “At the end of the day, the level of their everyday lives is where the battle for the future of the country will be won.”

View the full 2009 Afghan Survey here.

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