Afghanistan war worsening but optimism is up, says new poll
The Afghanistan war has intensified and a fraudulently elected president retaken power, but 70 percent of respondents say the country is moving in the right direction, up 30 points from last year. Some analysts question the jump in positivity.
It’s morning in Afghanistan, according to a new nationwide poll of Afghan public opinion. But while even some skeptics agree that Afghans may have a more optimistic view of their country than outsiders suppose, analysts with deep experience there are cautious about the sunny picture emerging from the survey released Monday, saying it runs counter to their sense of the mood and the repercussions of the recent fraud-riddled election.Skip to next paragraph
Seventy percent of Afghans say the country is moving in the right direction, up 30 points from one year ago, according to the poll from ABC News, the BBC, and ARD German TV. Conducted last month after President Hamid Karzai’s reelection was confirmed, the survey also found his approval up 19 points on the year, to 71 percent.
Matthew Warshaw, managing director of ACSOR Surveys, the firm in Kabul that conducted the poll, chalked the optimism up to three things: the peaceful resolution of the election controversy, the US deepening its commitment to the country, and more Afghans seeing development in their local area.
“I think there was somewhat of an election honeymoon” in December, says Mr. Warshaw, referring to the bump in optimism that usually follows democratic elections in other parts of the world.
Recent elections: inspiring, or hopelessly flawed?
For Afghans, postelection bliss may stem from the simple fact that the country dodged a violent breakup over the results. Also, “people are willing to wait and see if Karzai can deliver on many of the promises he’s made, and I think people are hopeful that the increased effort by the US and NATO may help solidify the security gains,” says Warshaw.
But Afghanistan’s recent elections were anything but usual, protracted by widespread allegations of fraud and a flawed monitoring process that pitted the government against its international backers.
That said, even some skeptics of the poll argue that Afghans have a more positive view of the election than may be commonly thought.
“I think the international community has missed what a positive experience these elections were in some ways for a lot of Afghans,” says Noah Coburn, an anthropologist who conducted postelection surveys for the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit, though only around Kabul.
“I think in general [Afghans] were fairly upbeat and people felt that campaigns were quite active. There was quite a lot of public debate over political issues which … in the history of Afghanistan is quite remarkable, so I can see Afghans emerging from this past year more positive in that sense.”