Few Afghans know reason for war, new study shows

KABUL Fri Nov 19, 2010 9:36am EST

Related Topics

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.

EXIT TIMETABLE

Attention is now focused on an exit timetable. U.S. 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)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (3)
BHOlied wrote:
Wow wow wow wow.

92% have no idea that the men hiding in their hills murdered innocent people.

Simply amazing, how different is the world in which they live.

If they don’t know why their is a war in their nation, what else aren’t they aware of?!

Nov 19, 2010 12:53pm EST  --  Report as abuse
drbeeth wrote:
In an effort to have more objective investigative journalism to help track the perpetrators of September 11th, M. Elias Davidsson proposed we sign the: “Declaration against racial incitement and slander”. (Google Elias Davidsson). I have done so, and it is high time we let our media know that they are crossing the line of decency when they accuse a racial and religious minority profile of perpetrating a historic crime against humanity, while holding no credible evidence of this, and where motive, means and opportunity points to a totally different direction than the one pursued by the minions who eat from the trough of the “official” media, and prance around with honorary titles of the Queens Council nomination for the British Commonwealth.
I suggest Mrs. Norine MacDonald visits AE911Truth.org before writing her next report.

Nov 22, 2010 3:25am EST  --  Report as abuse
Jahongir wrote:
To the poster of the first comment, NB: “92 percent of 1,000 Afghan men surveyed in Helmand and Kandahar,” not 92% of the entire population of Afghanistan.

920 people out of 28,395,716 is not a determinate of ignorance…

Nov 22, 2010 4:54pm EST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.