February 10, 2009 / 6:46 AM / 11 years ago

Afghans lose faith in country's direction - poll

LONDON, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Afghans are losing confidence in the way things are going in the country but most remain hostile to Taliban insurgents, according to an opinion poll published on Monday.

The poll of 1,534 people across Afghanistan found that the approval rating of President Hamid Karzai remained high but was steadily falling.

Sixteen percent rated the job he was doing as "excellent" and 36 percent "good", versus 26 and 37 percent respectively in 2007. Karzai, who has hinted he will seek re-election in August, has lost favour with his Western backers due to his failure to rein in corruption and govern effectively outside Kabul.

Support for the presence of foreign troops was also strong but declining, compared with previous polls, the survey commissioned by the BBC, ABC News of the United States and German broadcaster ARD found.

A large majority -- 77 percent -- said U.S. or NATO air strikes were unacceptable because they put civilians at risk.

U.S. President Barack Obama has pledged to make Afghanistan his top foreign policy priority and is expected to send thousands more troops to strengthen the NATO-led fight against a resurgent Taliban.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband called the opinion poll "realistic".

"The Taliban are managing to create a strategic stalemate in parts of the country through their use of improvised explosive devices. They are spreading insecurity," he told BBC radio.

The Afghan government needed to do a better job of cracking down on corruption while other countries involved in Afghanistan needed to coordinate better, he said. Miliband acknowledged that NATO forces lost support when they killed civilians.

The nationwide poll, carried out by pollsters The Afghan Centre for Social and Opinion Research in December and January, found a sharp drop in the number of Afghan people who thought their country was on the right track.

Forty percent said things were going in the right direction, down from 54 percent in a similar poll in 2007 and 77 percent in 2005, according to results published on the BBC's website.

Only four percent of those polled said they would rather have the Taliban running the country and 58 percent thought the Taliban posed the biggest danger in the country.

Sixty-three percent said they "strongly" or "somewhat" supported the presence of U.S. military forces in Afghanistan, compared with 71 percent in 2007.

Full details of the poll can be found here (Reporting by Adrian Croft; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

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