2006 Poll: Strife Erodes Afghan Optimism

People who live in areas where the government, police or international forces are very strong are anywhere from 15 to 30 points more likely to express positive views of the country's direction, their living conditions and their future over the next year. That could be an endorsement of these institutions, but it also could just reflect that where they're strong, there's less conflict.

Foreign Forces/Attacks

Fifty-five percent say U.S. forces should remain, not on a specific timetable, but until security in the country has been achieved. That's down from 65 percent last year; as noted, there's been a 10-point increase in the number who want the U.S. to withdraw within the next year.

Desire for U.S. forces to stay in place until security is restored is highest, at nearly seven in 10, in the capital, Kabul; it drops dramatically, to four in 10, in the east and northeast.

Seven in 10 or more Afghans say they're "grateful" rather than "unhappy" with the presence of American, British and Canadian soldiers in the country. Perhaps in reaction to increased violence, there's been a drop in belief that attacks on U.S. forces can be justified -- 13 percent say so, down from 30 percent last year. (The number who say such attacks can be justified soars, to 51 percent, among the one in 10 who say the United States was wrong to invade.)

There is very broad opposition to other kinds of attacks: Majorities from 94 to 97 percent say attacking government officials, police, schools, teachers and other civilians cannot be justified. Eighty-nine percent say there can be no justification for suicide bombings.

Politically disaffected Afghans -- the one in eight who think the country's going in the wrong direction and lack confidence in its government -- are much more likely than others to think attacks against U.S. forces can be justified; 35 percent say so. They're also much less likely to say the U.S.-led invasion was a good thing (though most still do), to support the continued presence of U.S. forces or to view the United States favorably.

The politically disaffected are much less apt than others to see the Taliban as the country's biggest danger -- 28 percent do, compared with 57 percent among all Afghans. Nonetheless, even in this group, just 14 percent say they themselves support the presence of Taliban fighters in the country, compared with 5 percent among all Afghans.

Women's Rights

Seventy-nine percent of Afghans say women's rights are better now than under the Taliban, and seven in 10, men and women alike, rate the state of women's rights in their area positively. But that does not mean Western standards hold sway. Most Afghans balk at women holding supervisory work positions, and most favor arranged marriages.

Six in 10, including nearly as many women as men, call it unacceptable for women to hold jobs in which they supervise men. And six in 10 endorse the practice of arranged marriages, in which the woman is told whom she must marry and when. Afghan women are even more apt than men to call arranged marriages an acceptable practice, 67 percent to 54 percent.

Afghans overwhelmingly reject hitting or beating women, an issue that's received some news coverage. Nine in 10 call this unacceptable.

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