Afghans increasingly pessimistic: survey
Published Sunday, November 2, 2008 8:07AM EST
A new survey suggests Afghans are increasingly unimpressed with the direction their country is headed, and more than a third of its participants claim to be worse off today than when the Taliban ruled the war-torn country.
The survey, released Tuesday and published by the non-profit Asia Foundation (AF), suggests that "a clear trend towards greater pessimism" has emerged among Afghans in the past two years.
Nearly 6,600 Afghans were interviewed for the 105-question "Afghanistan in 2008: A Survey of the Afghan People," which included respondents from each of the country's 34 provinces.
More than 500 Afghans helped collect the information for the survey over a period of several weeks this past summer, which was the fourth such survey in Afghanistan published by the U.S.-based AF since 2004.
Among the survey findings that suggest Afghans have become more pessimistic about the state of their country:
38 per cent of Afghans said they agreed with the direction Afghanistan was headed, compared to 44 per cent in 2006
32 per cent of Afghans said they disagreed with the direction Afghanistan was headed, versus 21 per cent in 2006
36 per cent of Afghans said they are less prosperous today than when they lived under Taliban rule, compared to 26 per cent who made the same claim in 2006
In general, Afghans cited security issues, unemployment, high prices, corruption and a poor economy, as the major problems facing their country.
According to the survey, security was the biggest factor in shaping Afghan views.
But AF representative George Varughese told CTV.ca in a telephone interview from New York that many Afghans take significant issue with problems affecting their livelihood as well.
A lack of economic growth opportunities and problems with unemployment, he said, are two areas where Afghans say their government can do better.
"It's hitting the people where it really hurts in their stomachs and their wallets," Varughese said. "It seems like they are better able to cope with local insecurity, than with the lack of jobs at the local level etc."
Seventy-eight per cent of Afghans told the survey they believed there were few jobs available in their local area, with only seven per cent believing their local job market had improved in the past two years.
Anthony Cordesman, a Washington-based expert on the conflict in Afghanistan, said it was not surprising to hear that Afghans might be pessimistic about the current state of their country.
"It's almost inevitable...when you have a deteriorating military and economic situation, without serious improvements in aid and governance that the Afghan people act accordingly," he told CTV.ca in a phone interview.
In Ottawa, Afghan ambassador Omar Samad said "such surveys are probably the best means to gauge" the opinions of Afghanistan's people.
"What I read from this survey is how that concern about security affects their livelihoods, their economic conditions and prospects and opportunities that they would like to see emerge in Afghanistan after seven years since the fall of the Taliban," he said in a phone interview.
"I think that this is a fairly accurate description of the overall sentiment of the Afghans."