Many in Afghan optimistic, but mistrust government

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Many Afghans are optimistic about the direction the war-torn country is taking, but have mixed feelings about their government, a survey released on Tuesday found.

An Afghan family watches as U.S. soldiers and Afghan Special Forces police search their house in a village where the Taliban fired a rocket at a Canadian Army Base and killed an Afghan truck driver some 35 km west of Kandahar in Zahri district, southern Afghanistan, October 22, 2007. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic

Forty-two percent of those interviewed this year said things were moving in the right direction, marginally lower than the 44 percent in 2006, the U.S.-based Asia Foundation said.

That compared to 24 percent who saw Afghanistan moving in the wrong direction, an increase from 21 percent the previous year.

It was the Foundation’s third such poll since 2004 and involved more than 6,000 interviews with Afghan men and women across the country.

While 80 percent thought the government was doing a good job, 79 percent said it did not care what people thought and 69 percent that talking negatively about the government in public was unacceptable.

Corruption was seen as a major problem throughout government, although: “Perception of the prevalence of corruption was higher at the national level”, where 74 percent saw widespread corruption against 48 percent for the local level.

The Foundation, a non-profit private organisation, said it designed and directed the survey, although funding came from a U.S. government aid agency grant.

Of those surveyed who thought the country was moving in the wrong direction, 48 percent cited insecurity as the main reason.

A Taliban-led insurgency backed by al Qaeda has intensified in Afghanistan in the past two years, with this year one of the most violent since 2001 when the Taliban lost control of the government in fighting with other Afghan and U.S.-led forces.

Still, two-thirds of those polled thought security in their own areas was good or quite good.

While the government and its foreign allies have scored some major conventional successes this year, the Taliban have increasingly turned to such tactics as suicide bombs and roadside explosives, with much of that activity occurring since field work for the survey was conducted in June.

Government and allied forces have meanwhile been criticised for inflicting civilian casualties, especially in aircraft bombing raids.