WASHINGTON (Map, News) – Support for the Kabul government and the United States and European troops trying to bolster it against insurgents is plummeting among the Afghan people, a new poll reports.
The decline is striking particularly in the last year, the poll shows, even as the Obama administration and NATO allies weigh moves to strengthen forces in the struggle with Taliban and other radical groups.
President Barack Obama has assigned high priority to the conflict and the administration is weighing whether to send another 30,000 U.S. troops there, almost doubling the 32,000 present.
His election, however, does not appear to hold much promise among the Afghan people: Two in 10 think he will make things better for the Afghan people and nearly as many think he will make things worse. The rest either expect no change or are waiting to see.
The poll, conducted by ABC News, the BBC and ARD German TV found, for instance, that the number of Afghans who say their country is headed in the right direction has dropped from 77 percent in 1995 to 40 percent now. That new and lower level is the first time less than half the Afghans polled were found to approve.
On top of that decline, while 83 percent of Afghans expressed a favorable opinion of the United States in 2005, just 47 percent feel that way now.
There was an 18 percent drop this year alone, according to polling results.
Other negative findings include:
– While 68 percent of Afghans polled in 2005 credited the United States with a good performance, the new approval figure is just 32 percent, a drop of more than half.
– NATO, which is allied with the United States, has the support of only 37 percent of Afghans, the poll showed.
– As for the central government in Kabul, while 83 percent of Afghans approved of President Hamid Karzai and 80 percent of the government in 2005, when the polling began, that support has slid to 52 per cent for Karzai and 49 percent for the government.
– There is strong complaint about U.S. and NATO air strikes, with 79 percent of Afghans saying they are unacceptable, that the risk to civilians outweighs the value in fighting insurgents.
The poll was based on in-person interviews with a random national sample of 1,534 Afghan adults from Dec. 30, 2008 to Jan. 12, 2009. Field work was done by the Afghan Center for Socio-Economic and Opinion Research in Kabul. The interviews were conducted by 176 interviewers in 34 supervised teams and the results have a 2.5-point error margin.