Local citizens fill out questionnaires in Afghanistan. Photo courtesy of ABC News.
ABC News, BBC and ARD have just published poll results showing a dramatic decrease in Afghans’ support for US military efforts:
In 2005, moreover, 83 percent of Afghans expressed a favorable opinion of the United States–unheard of in a Muslim nation. Today just 47 percent still hold that view, down 36 points, accelerating with an 18-point drop in U.S. favorability this year alone. For the first time slightly more Afghans now see the United States unfavorably than favorably.
The number who say the United States has performed well in Afghanistan has been more than halved, from 68 percent in 2005 to 32 percent now. Ratings of NATO/ISAF forces are no better. Just 37 percent of Afghans now say most people in their area support Western forces; it was 67 percent in 2006. And 25 percent now say attacks on U.S. or NATO/ISAF forces can be justified, double the level, 13 percent, in 2006.
Many proponents of the current military strategy in Afghanistan claim that the Afghans want the US troops in the country for their security; the poll, however, shows that only 18 percent of Afghans support increasing the number of US and NATO troops, while 44 percent want the number to decrease.
In both Pakistan and Afghanistan, we have seen public resentment grow in response to US airstrikes that cause civilian casualties. This poll confirms the negative effects of that tactic, with 77% of Afghans saying the strikes are “unacceptable.” In this excellent Bill Moyers Journal interview, Moyers talks to historian Marilyn Young and former Pentagon official Pierre Sprey about how bombing civilians is dangerously undermining US interests in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Moyers notes that in a recent protest in Pakistan, citizens held a banner reading, “Bombing on tribes. Obama’s first gift to Pakistan.”
With the new administration and Congress putting renewed focus on Afghanistan, we need to seize this opportunity to have a serious dialogue about what strategies are effective in Afghanistan and which ones need to be abandoned. Simply continuing, or intensifying, the Bush administration strategy that has failed to diminish the threat from Al Qaeda and has alienated local populations is not a viable option.
Peace Action West offers some ideas for better approaches to the war in Afghanistan and the broader so-called “War on Terror” in our agenda for the new administration and Congress, Strategic Cooperation: Global Challenges, 21st Century Tools.
Throughout this year, we will continue to push the Obama administration and Congress to think through strategy in Afghanistan and examine non-military approaches. We will also be playing an active role in Rethink Afghanistan, which just put out its first video this week: