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The Afghan People’s Voice

March 25, 2009

Next Sunday in The Hague, the United Nations will gather top diplomats from Afghanistan, the United States, and more than 80 other countries to discuss development and stability in Afghanistan. The Obama administration is expected to unveil details of its new Afghanistan strategy at this conference. It has been over seven years since the international community came together in Germany to establish the Bonn Agreement on Dec. 5, 2001. In Bonn in 2001, the intent was to provide a roadmap for Afghanistan’s transition to a stable democracy. Next week in The Hague, the focus will be on how to avoid the country again being overrun by the Taliban and becoming a safe haven for terrorists.

This spring and summer, Afghanistan is preparing for its second presidential election on August 20, while 17,000 more American troops – and a rumored surge of diplomats and aid workers – will begin arriving in the country. The Obama administration’s new strategy is reportedly focused on creating stability, but efficient and democratic governance in the long-term will remain one of the priorities.

Often lost in international dialogue over Afghanistan’s future are the voices of the Afghan people themselves. In Afghanistan in 2008: A Survey of the Afghan People, 6,593 Afghans from all 34 provinces provide their opinions and insights on security, governance, reconstruction, poppy cultivation, and the role of Islam and women in society. The Asia Foundation has been measuring public opinion in Afghanistan since 2004, providing a rare barometer for Afghan attitudes on the direction of their country. In 2004, 64 percent of Afghans thought their country was moving in the right direction; in 2008, 38 percent did. This summer, The Asia Foundation’s Kabul office will begin polling for the 2009 survey. A full analysis of the poll, State Building, Security, and Social Change in Afghanistan, written by renowned Afghanistan experts, explores how these attitudes should apply to Afghan and international development strategies.

Gordon Hein is The Asia Foundation’s Vice President for Programs. He can be reached at ghein@asiafound.org.

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