Insights and Analysis

Punditry Aside, How do Afghans Feel about Afghanistan?

November 14, 2012

By Karl F. Inderfurth, Ted Eliot

For the most part, Afghanistan is portrayed today as violent and war-torn and with an ineffective and corrupt government. The consensus seems to be that there is little hope that the country will hold together or defend itself against the Taliban and other terrorists after U.S. and NATO combat troops leave two years hence. The conclusion is that much blood and treasure has been wasted since the Taliban were ousted in 2001.

But there is another view of this story. The majority of Afghans see their future quite differently.

The Asia Foundation has just completed its eighth survey of public opinion in Afghanistan since 2004. These surveys have established a valid, long-term barometer of the Afghan people’s views over time.  Last June nearly 6,300 Afghans were interviewed across all 34 provinces on a wide variety of issues. Respondents were divided between men (56%) and women (44%), and included both urban (22%) and rural (78%) households. The fact that 16 percent of polling sites were not accessible for security reasons – potentially creating a bias – is taken into account and does not overturn the major findings. The survey’s sampling error is +/- 5 percent.

What is most striking in this latest survey is that 52 percent of the respondents – up from 46 percent in 2011 – believe that Afghanistan is moving in the right direction. 93 percent have a positive view of the Afghan armed forces (although many have doubts about the ability of the Afghan army and police to operate today without the support of foreign troops). Eighty-nine percent give their government good marks for the provision of educational services. Seventy-two percent say their national legislature is addressing the problems of ordinary citizens.

Read the full piece, originally published by Foreign Policy’s AFPAK Channel on November 14.

Asia Foundation trustee Karl Inderfurth is the former Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs and trustee Ted Eliot is a former Ambassador to Afghanistan. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the individual authors and not those of The Asia Foundation.


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