Afghanistan Report

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Afghans want Senator Obama for US President

17 April 2008

Afghans want Senator Obama for US President

Somalis support Senator Clinton as a peace partner

Peace an overriding concern amongst both Afghans and Somalis

Afghans and Somalis ask next US President to work for reconciliation with Muslims
LONDON – The people of Afghanistan would like to see US Presidential Candidate Barack Obama take over at the White House, while Somalis would prefer to work with Democratic rival Senator Hillary Clinton, according to a series of interviews conducted over the past month by ICOS in Afghanistan and Somalia.

When asked which of the Presidential candidates they would back, 69% of those questioned in Afghanistan favoured Obama, with 26% in favour of Clinton. In Somalia, 47% of civilians surveyed supported Clinton, with 44% backing Obama.

“What we are seeing is that Afghans have overwhelming support of Senator Obama because they are attracted by his promises to bring peace and end the war in Iraq,” said Norine MacDonald QC, President and Lead Field Researcher of ICOS.

“Most interestingly, we found unified support for Senator Clinton amongst Somalis associated with the Islamic courts, and the extremist parts of the community. According to their perceptions of Senator Clinton’s character and experience, she is best suited as a partner to build peace with Muslims.”

Somalis interviewed believed that Senator Obama could avoid engaging in Islamic issues because he would be vulnerable to allegations of being overly sympathetic to a Muslim viewpoints, given his family’s Muslim background.

“Obama will not be able to deliver a positive working relationship with the Muslim people. The US people are very suspicious of his Muslim background and if they see him in a room with Muslim leaders they will not trust him to represents US interests,” said one of the respondents in Mogadishu.

The strongest support for Obama in the Somali community came from those most closely associated with the Somali Government.

Afghans and Somalis aware of US Elections; calls for peace from both countries

“The interviews revealed a high level of awareness amongst Afghans and Somalis of the upcoming US Presidential Elections,” said Gabrielle Archer, Policy Analyst at ICOS. “Their knowledge of the candidates shows that people in both countries realise the significant impact that the choice of US President plays in their lives.”

In offering a message to the next US President, peace was an overriding concern amongst both Afghan and Somali respondents, refuting any perception that ordinary Afghans and Somalis are interested in perpetuating their own conflicts.

“Afghans and Somalis alike want to pursue peace,” said Archer. “They hope the next President will see the vital importance of support in both Afghanistan and Somalia as an integral part of US foreign policy.”

Little support for Senator McCain in Afghanistan and Somalia

In both countries, support for Senator McCain was very low, with just 5% of respondents in Afghanistan and 9% in Somalia opting for the Republican nominee.

“McCain is no different to Bush at all. We would be very concerned if McCain was elected. The whole world is looking to the US to bring back the dignity and morality of the US,” said a businessman from Mogadishu.

A total of 388 people were interviewed in Afghanistan in the cities of Kabul, Jalalabad, Kandahar City and Lashkar Gah, while 302 Somalis were questioned in Mogadishu, Baidoa and Hargeisa. The series of interviews were part of initial research that precedes a comparative study of the insurgency and politics of both countries, which will be released on the 23rd of April in London.

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