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Afghans more critical of U.S efforts

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ALISA TANG
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
December 3, 2007 at 8:22 AM EST

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghans are increasingly critical of U.S. military efforts in their country, while support for the Taliban is on the rise in the violence-plagued southwest, according to a poll released today.

The survey — conducted for ABC News, the BBC and the German public TV station ARD — noted that Afghans overwhelmingly prefer the government of President Hamid Karzai to the Taliban.

But they also believe that government should negotiate with the Taliban to end the war.

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.

This year has been the most violent since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, and insurgency-related violence has killed nearly 6,200 people — a record number, according to an AP tally of figures from Afghan and western officials.

More than 800 civilians have died in insurgency attacks and military operations, causing a decline in support for foreign troops and the western-backed government of President Hamid Karzai.

Polltakers conducted 1,377 face-to-face interviews with Afghans in all of the country’s 34 provinces. The poll was the third survey in Afghanistan sponsored by ABC News and media partners, and was conducted between Oct. 28 and Nov. 7. It has a three percentage point margin of error.

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.

Respondents were particularly critical in the southwestern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar. The former Taliban stronghold and now the biggest opium-producing region in the world has borne the brunt of violence in Afghanistan this year.

“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.

An overwhelming majority of respondents preferred the current government to the Taliban, but 60 per cent say Karzai’s government should negotiate a settlement in which Taliban leaders would be allowed to hold political office in exchange for laying down their arms.

Karzai said last month that he has had increasing contact with Taliban leaders in exile, but the militant’s leaders have ruled out talks as long as foreign troops remain in the country.

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Written by afghandevnews

December 4, 2007 at 3:19 pm

Posted in Security

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