WASHINGTON (AFP) “” A nationwide survey of Afghans out Monday shows plummeting support for US and NATO/ISAF forces in Afghanistan, and a rise in the number who believe attacks on those troops are acceptable.
The poll of 1,500 people in Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, conducted by three Western broadcast networks — ABC News, the BBC and Germany’s ARD — also shows lower support for President Hamid Karzai and the Afghan central government.
Forty percent of Afghans surveyed say their country is heading in the right direction, down 77 percent from 2005, according to the poll.
Afghan opinion of the United States has nosedived: 47 percent had a favorable opinion, down from 83 percent in 2005. US favorability plunged 18 percent in 2008 alone, according to the survey.
“For the first time slightly more Afghans now see the United States unfavorably than favorably,” ABC News said.
The biggest complaint: civilian deaths resulting from US and NATO air strikes, which 77 percent say is unacceptable because the risk to civilians outweighs the strikes’ value in fighting insurgents.
Forty-one percent blame Western forces for poor targeting, while 28 percent blame the insurgents for hiding among civilians.
More worrisome, 25 percent say that attacks on US troops or soldiers with the ISAF — the NATO-led multinational force in Afghanistan — can be justified, up from 13 percent in 2006.
The survey comes as US President Barack Obama considers plans to nearly double the number of US troops in Afghanistan, and as the new administration in Washington reviews overall strategy in the region.
Only 18 percent of the Afghans surveyed believe that the number of US and NATO/ISAF forces should increase, while 44 percent want the number of foreign troops to drop.
Just 37 percent say that most people in their area supported the NATO forces, down from 67 percent in 2006.
Obama’s election seems to offer little respite: only 20 percent believe his policies will improve things in Afghanistan.
“Thirty-six percent of those surveyed mostly blame US, Afghan or NATO/ISAF forces or the US or Afghan governments for the violence that’s occurring, up by 10 points from 2007,” ABC said.
Only 27 percent mainly blame the Taliban for the violence, down by 9 points.
Confidence in the Afghan government has also plunged: in 2005, 83 percent of Afghans approved of Karzai’s work and 80 percent approved of the national government. That has dropped to 52 and 49 percent respectively.
The survey was conducted in late December and early January in personal interviews with a nationwide sample of 1,534 Afghan adults. Field work was done by the Afghan Center for Socio-Economic and Opinion Research in Kabul, ABC said in a statement.