Few Afghans know reason for war, new study shows

KABUL Fri Nov 19, 2010 9:17am EST

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KABUL (Reuters) - Afghans in two crucial southern provinces are almost completely unaware of the September 11 attacks on the United States and don't know they precipitated the foreign intervention now in its 10th year, a new report showed on Friday.

NATO leaders gathered in Lisbon for a summit on Friday where the transition from foreign forces -- now at about 150,000 -- to Afghan security responsibility will be at the top of the agenda, with leaders to discuss a 2014 target date set by Kabul.

Few Afghans in Helmand and Kandahar provinces, Taliban strongholds where fighting remains fiercest, know why foreign troops are in Afghanistan, says the "Afghanistan Transition: Missing Variables" report to be released later on Friday.

The report by The International Council on Security and Development (ICOS) policy think-tank showed 92 percent of 1,000 Afghan men surveyed in Helmand and Kandahar know nothing of the hijacked airliner attacks on U.S. targets in 2001.

"The lack of awareness of why we are there contributes to the high levels of negativity toward the NATO military operations and made the job of the Taliban easier," ICOS President Norine MacDonald told Reuters from Washington.

"We need to explain to the Afghan people why we are here, and both convince them and show them that their future is better with us than the Taliban," MacDonald said.

The report said there was a continued "relationship gap" between Afghans and the international community, describing the lack of understanding as "dramatic".

U.S.-backed Afghan forces toppled the Islamist Taliban government in late 2001 for sheltering al Qaeda leaders who plotted the 9/11 attacks that killed about 3,000 people.

The war has now dragged into its 10th year and violence is at its worst, despite a record number of foreign troops, with military and civilian casualties at their highest levels.


Attention is now focused on an exit timetable. President Barack Obama, who will review his Afghanistan war strategy next month, wants to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from July 2011.

European NATO leaders, under pressure at home to justify their continued commitment to an increasingly unpopular war, are following a similar timetable. Some are withdrawing troops and others are looking to move from combat to training roles.

While Afghan President Hamid Karzai has set a target of 2014, NATO's civilian representative in Afghanistan, Mark Sedwill, said this week "eye-watering levels of violence by Western standards" might mean the transition spills into 2015.

That throws the emphasis back on the Afghan government -- widely seen as so corrupt and inept that it is unable to support itself -- and the readiness of Afghan forces to take over.

The ICOS report showed 61 percent of respondents in Helmand and Kandahar believe Afghan security forces would not be able to provide adequate security when foreign forces withdraw, and that 56 percent believe the Afghan police are helping the Taliban.

It noted there was clear "potential for the Afghan security forces to switch sides" after being trained by NATO forces.

The report said 81 percent of those interviewed in the south thought al Qaeda would return to Afghanistan if the Taliban regained power, and that 72 percent thought al Qaeda would again use the country to launch attacks against the West.

ICOS senior policy analyst Jorrit Kamminga said the "negative blowback" of the foreign presence could be managed by addressing the chronic poverty, food shortages, unemployment and displacement faced by ordinary Afghans.

The report noted improvements in some areas of the south, with the number of people in Marjah, a key battleground in Helmand, who thought NATO-led forces were winning the war almost doubling to 64 percent between June and October 2010.

It was also a very different picture in the north, with 80 percent of 500 men interviewed in Parwan and Panjshir provinces thinking the central government was protecting their interests.

(Editing by Sugita Katyal)

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Comments (3)
go2goal wrote:
The Afghani’s aren’t the only one’s that don’t understand why the US military and military contractors have overrun their nation. Thanks to the US media and our elected officials, the defense industry establishment just keeps on keeping on….and breaking our country, our economy, and our democracy in the process.

Everyone MUST Read Lt. Colonel Andrew Bacevich’s latest book to realize what’s going on and why we’re in Afghanistan as well as Iraq…..especially President Obummer.

Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War

Nov 19, 2010 9:42am EST  --  Report as abuse
ETS wrote:
Actually the solution to the Afghan conundrum seems simple to solve:partition.

Let the Taliban-leaning south and east go as an independent Pashtunistan and the non-Pashtun Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaris and Turkmen can create a stronger Afghan confederation centered in Kabul.

Nov 19, 2010 9:50am EST  --  Report as abuse
ickybiker wrote:
Gentlemen, I haven’t read Col. Bacevich’s book, but consider this:

The most technologically advanced, mobile, resource laden, numerically superior military force in the world has been “fighting” one of the most primitive, ill equipped, band of culturally ignorant cave men on the planet (92% of 1000 surveyed didn’t even know about 9/11) for almost 10 years.

Most have no idea why foreign troops are invading their country, and are being told only that the US wants to destroy Islam. No disrespect intended dear commentators, but may we entertain the thought that perhaps our hasty “shock and awe” scorched earth policies in the middle east which target ALL Islamic peoples in addition to Al Qaeda (formerly the Mujahideen, who we supported and armed back in the 80’s) might be creating even more enemies, and doing exactly the opposite of “making us safer”? What’s more, 15 of the 18 alleged terrorists were not Afghan, Iraqi, Pakistani, Yemeni, Iranian, or Californian, they were Saudi….a nation the PC crowd dare not speak ill of.

A year or so ago, we were told by either Petreaus or McCrystal that there were less than 100 Taliban (who had nothing to do with 9/11) left, yet they insisted that they needed something like 30,000 more troops. I’m paraphrasing here, the number doesn’t really matter. Can anyone enlighten me as to the reasoning behind any argument justifying the over 6000 American deaths we have incurred over the last 9 years (and the number continues to rise) in the alleged attempt to avenge the deaths of 3000? Is that new math?

That being said, The US military has no business being there. The solution is to leave. We have entirely too many problems here at home which are not being addressed to be worried about how a foreign culture treats their women. This is merely a very expensive distraction.

Hundreds of thousands of Americans are losing their jobs, homes, retirements, yet the USG forks over trillions on wars that they are obviously NOT trying to “win”, and are indeed un-winnable. The bankers have us by the boo boo in their quest for avarice, and we scream for more….

The resource rich lands in the Middle East draw despotic empires such as ours like flies. Afghanistan is the historic graveyard of empires, Russia being it’s most recent victim, and we may be it’s next. The fact that these scaremongering generals claim to need thousands of troops equipped with the worlds most advanced technology to quell a group of 100 cave dwelling rebels with AK-47s and RPGs should raise some alarms and questions about motive in a conscious mind.

The world will change when enough individuals realize the criminal vanity that all empires represent.

Nov 24, 2010 8:26am EST  --  Report as abuse
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