Rays of Hope

by Joshua Foust on 11/28/2006

The Asia Foundation has released a large survey of public opinion in Afghanistan (full thing here, pdf). The findings are surprising:

  • In 2004, 64% believed the country was heading in the right direction; in 2006 only 44% did.
  • People found unemployment, poverty, and clean water as more problematic than security or corruption.
  • There is an overwhelming confidence in the power of elections to bring change, but also a majority won’t allow opposition parties to hold meetings in their local communities.
  • Both the army and national police forces enjoy approval ratings above 85%.
  • 54% felt they were more prosperous than under the Taliban.

This is a far sunnier picture than most news accounts of the area would indicate. Of course, like all surveys, it is riddled with selection biases, including its ultimate source of funding: USAID, not a disinterested third party (i.e. they’re pushing their own agenda). That doesn’t mean the survey is wrong, just that it deserves closer scrutiny. Furthermore, only about 6,000 Afghanis were surveyed, and only in areas that were deemed safe enough for travel—meaning, some provinces were either discounted, substituted, or neglected entirely from the survey. Though Asia Foundation stands by its methodology, and it very well might be sound as far as surveys in unsafe areas go, the fact remains that asking people away from combat zones about security (for example) won’t offer a complete picture of what the country is like.

The survey, though, is important, if only for reminding us that there very much remains things worth fighting for. The Afghanistan campaign is a noble one, and we owe it to the people we’ve bombed to follow this through to the end.


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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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