By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
Jan. 12, 2010 - Optimism is on the rise in Afghanistan, with 90 percent of Afghans reporting in a new survey that they believe their country is headed in the right direction and support the Afghan national government.
Survey results released yesterday reveal a dramatic increase in confidence about the state of Afghanistan compared to a year ago, and increased support for the U.S. and NATO troop presence there.
The survey – commissioned by ABC News, the BBC and ARD German television -- was conducted in mid-December, and included a random sample of 1,534 Afghan adults from all 34 Afghan provinces. Men and women were equally represented.
Seventy-one percent expressed optimism about Afghan's path for the next 12 months, up from 40 percent last year. The last time the Afghan people expressed this level of confidence was in 2005, with confidence rates steadily declining until this year, the survey results show.
Ninety percent of those in the most recent survey said they support the current government, with only 6 percent favoring Taliban rule.
Sixty-nine percent identified the Taliban as the biggest threat facing Afghanistan. Sixty-six percent blamed the Taliban, al-Qaida and foreign militants for violence in Afghanistan.
The new poll marks a significant change from 2009, when just over half of those surveyed said they believed their country was on the right track. Thirteen percent expected it to deteriorate. The latest poll shows that just 5 percent expect Afghanistan's situation to worsen during the coming year.
Respondents expressed increased support for the U.S. and International Security Assistance Force presence in Afghanistan. Sixty-eight percent approve of U.S. troops in the country, up from 63 percent a year ago. Sixty-two percent support the NATO presence, up from 59 percent.
Eighty-three percent called it "very good" or "mostly good" that U.S. forces entered Afghanistan in 2001 to drive out the Taliban. During the previous year's survey, that percentage was 69.
Asked when U.S. and NATO troops should leave Afghanistan, the Afghan people expressed a wide range of opinions. Twenty-five percent said they should leave in 18 months, 22 percent said they should leave sooner than 18 months, and 21 percent said they should stay longer than 18 months. Twenty-nine percent said the drawdown should be based on security situation on the ground.