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New field research shows some improvement in negative perceptions of the international presence in southern Afghanistan, but serious challenges remain
92% of respondents in the south were unaware of 9/11 events
56% of Afghans interviewed in Helmand and Kandahar believe Afghan police are helping the Taliban
61% of Afghans interviewed in Helmand and Kandahar believe the Afghan security forces won’t be able to provide security when foreign troops leave
Challenges ahead for the international community before it leaves Afghanistan – missing variables in transition equation must be addressed
Afghanistan Transition: Missing Variables draws on findings from field research interviewing 1,500 Afghan men in October 2010. The research, conducted by Afghan interviewers, asked questions of 1,000 men in Kandahar and Helmand provinces, the two provinces currently suffering the most violence in southern Afghanistan; and 500 men in the provinces of Parwan and Panjshir in the north of the country. Interviews in the south took place in the Kandahar districts of Zhari, Panjwai and Kandahar City; and in the Helmand districts of Lashkar Gah, Marjah, Nawa, Sangin, and Garmsir.
Guiding the transition
“Securing the support of the Afghan people at the grassroots level is critical to the success of the transition and to achieve the overarching mission of stabilising Afghanistan so that it can never again be a base for Al Qaeda,” said Norine MacDonald, President and Lead Field Researcher of ICOS. “The international community must build an effective strategic collaboration with the local population that supports the military operation if we are to achieve a successful transition. This would not only reformulate the security landscape but respects the sacrifices that Afghan people are making in the war.”
Building political support: ‘Why we are here’
“We need to explain to the Afghan people why we are here, and both show and convince them that their future is better with us than with the Taliban,” said MacDonald.
The bad news/The good news
Sixty-one percent of respondents in Helmand and Kandahar believe the Afghan National Security Forces will be unable to provide post-transition security, revealing a worrying lack of confidence in the two key provinces in the ANSF’s ability to protect them once NATO-ISAF forces leave.
The news is not all bad: ICOS figures show several areas where the numbers, while remaining low, have improved. For example in June 2010, only 34% of interviewees in Helmand’s Marjah district thought that NATO-ISAF were winning the war, whereas in October, this figure has risen to 64%. In Nawa district, in June 2010 only 20% of interviewees thought recent military operations in their area had been good for the Afghan people, while in October 2010 this figure was 51%.
Managing negative blowback through positive impact
A return of the Taliban means a return of Al Qaeda
Building the loyalty of the Afghan Security Forces
Fifty-four percent of interviewees in the southern provinces would like to see the creation of ‘Pashtunistan’, an independent Pashtun state (which usually refers to incorporating Pashtun areas of both Afghanistan and Pakistan into a single ethnic state.)
Women’s role: the view from the south
“There are legitimate concerns being expressed that the future of Afghan women will be left behind in the rush to transition. These numbers indicate that Afghan men in even the most conservative districts see the importance of involving women in building security and peace in Afghanistan,” commented MacDonald.
On the negative side, only 30% of respondents in the north think that foreigners respect their religion and tradition. Interviewee opinions of the foreigners’ sensitivity towards local customs are low: in both the northern and southern areas, a majority of the interviewees feel that foreigners do not respect their religion and traditions.