In October, I traveled to Kabul on behalf of Charney Research in New York to oversee the pre-tests and interviewer training for a nationwide survey conducted on behalf of ABC news, BBC News and ARD of Germany.
The results, which were released today, are interesting for a number of reasons-- particularly the wealth of tracking data from 2006 (a project for which I also traveled to Kabul for pre-tests and trainings) and 2005. As the ABC story (which is more insightful than the BBC's) emphasizes, Afghans are increasingly critical of US efforts, with only 42% positive, down from 57% in 2006. More than half (53%) disapprove of the job the US is doing. It's important to note, however, that the presence of US troops isn't what is drawing Afghans' ire (71% support their presence), it's their performance. Civilian deaths, especially in the Southwest, understandably, turn Afghans away from US and NATO forces. This is an important finding with implications for US policy there.
The economy remains a serious trouble spot, as does security. The survey also confirms one of the most common (and obvious to a visitor) complaints: Afghans are even more unhappy with the electricity supply than they were last year (61% say electricity supplies in their area are "very bad," compared to 50% in 2006). Another troubling finding: 36% say women's rights in their area are bad or "very bad," up from 28% in 2006.
In the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges, Afghans remain relatively upbeat about the direction of their country-- a finding emphasized by BBC. Even though optimism is on a downward trend, it compares favorably to Iraq, where optimism is scarce. Afghans are more hopeful about the future, feel like aid projects have had more impact and feel safer moving around than Iraqis.
Look for more posts about all the research that's come out of Afghanistan in the last few months.