Afghanistan Poll: Where Things Stand 2010

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In another question, majorities think foreign forces are making at least some progress toward goals such as training Afghan forces to take over security (where a broad 84 percent see progress), strengthening Afghanistan's government (69 percent) and preventing al Qaeda from re-establishing itself in Afghanistan (66 percent). Afghans rate US/NATO troops as the least successful in reducing corruption -- but still a slight majority sees progress here.

In each of these, though, far fewer -- no more than three in 10 -- see "a great deal" of progress. For example, just 19 and 20 percent, respectively, see a great deal of progress in preventing a Taliban takeover or an al Qaeda resurgence -- the chief aim of ISAF efforts.

VIOLENCE -- Violence is a clear driver of public attitudes. Four in 10 Afghans now report fighting between the Taliban and government or foreign troops in their area, up 7 points from early 2009. Forty percent report car bombs or suicide attacks in their area, 28 percent within the last year. Thirty-two percent report local bombing or shelling by U.S. or NATO/ISAF forces, numerically a new high -- and nearly three-quarters call such air strikes unacceptable, again up 7 points from December 2009.

In a critical measure, as noted above, more Afghans continue to say Western forces have gotten worse rather than better at avoiding civilian casualties, 39 percent vs. 30 percent. That's improved from a 43-24 percent negative result last year, but it remains a problem, given the extent to which such casualties erode support for the U.S. and NATO mission. And another measure hasn't changed: Thirty-six percent of Afghans report someone in their area killed or seriously hurt by Western forces, including two in 10 who say it's happened within the past year.

Concurrently, as noted, blame on the United States and ISAF for the violence in Afghanistan has risen. Twenty-four percent now chiefly blame U.S. forces, the U.S. government or NATO/ISAF forces for the country's violence -- a steep rise from just 10 percent last year. Blame on the Taliban, meanwhile, while higher, has declined from 42 percent last year to 33 percent now.

It matters: Support for the presence of U.S. forces doubles (to 74 percent) among those who blame the country's violence on the Taliban, al Qaeda or foreign jihadis, rather than on Western forces or the Kabul government. Similarly, support for the U.S. presence loses 19 points where coalition air strikes are reported, 17 points where the Taliban are most active, 16 points where local security is rated negatively and 15 points where civilian casualties have occurred.

ATTACKS -- In a troubling result, acceptance of attacks against U.S. forces has jumped. Last year, amid a prominent campaign led by Gen. Stanley McChrystal to reduce civilian casualties, the number of Afghans who said attacks against American forces could be justified fell to 8 percent. Now it's increased sharply, to 27 percent, back near its previous levels.

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