Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Falling Afghan Support for U.S. Forces

Below is the weekly guest post from Andrew Lubin.

ABC News published a poll today detailing how precarious the situation is becoming:

• There is declining local support for President Karzai and his incredibly corrupt government – the next elections have just been postponed (not a move that builds confidence).

• The majority of Afghans considers public corruption to be a problem, and there are widespread complaints about the availability of jobs and electricity along with concerns about prices of food and goods.

• Outside of the larger cities, basic services do not realistically exist.

• There is also a sharp decline in Afghans who think their country is headed in the right direction.

It’s the security situation that worries the locals the most. Only 42% have confidence in American or NATO forces to provide security in their areas, and only 32% think our troops are doing a good job.

It’s the airstrikes that are giving us the bad name. A full 20% say American airstrikes have killed civilians in their area, and 80% believe that killing civilians exceeds the benefit that may come from killing Taliban. More blame the U.S. and coalition forces for poor targeting than blame the Taliban for keeping assets among civilians (41 to 28%), with 27% saying both sides share the blame.

In an unusual twist, 58% say that the Taliban is a greater threat to the future of the country than warlords, drug lords, or the Karzai government, but 36% say the current problems are the fault of the United States.

And despite the negative turn in public views, most Afghans continue to say the U.S.-led invasion and the ouster of the Taliban were a good thing for their country, and most want U.S. troops to stay.

Yesterday Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, confirmed that we will be sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan this year. And he also explicitly stated that this new “surge” needs to be accompanied by a parallel surge from the State Department and other government agencies.

For two years now, CENTCOM has been promoting the “whole nation strategy,” meaning our whole nation participates – Marines, State Department, Army, USDA, Air Force (when not bombing civilians), SBA, Commerce. It should be an embarrassment to these agencies – all government employees – that CENTCOM is still begging these agencies to get involved.

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