In other areas, barely over half rate their access to medical care positively. Just under half positively rate their protection from the Taliban and other armed groups. While 61 percent say they can move about safely, that's down 10 points from 2007, and leaves four in 10 without such freedom of movement. And beyond food and fuel, in terms of prices overall, 58 percent report difficulty being able to afford things they want and need.
As noted, two chief forces are at play in deteriorating public sentiment in Afghanistan – security and development alike. Of these, security is a stronger factor in views of the United States and its NATO/ISAF allies. But development is about as strong as security in views of Karzai and the Afghan government. That suggests that for public sentiment to stabilize, both problems need to be addressed.
PROGRESS and AID – There has been significant progress in some areas. Seventy-two percent of Afghans say schools have been rebuilt or reopened in their area in the past five years (up 7 points from 2007); 53 percent, mosques; 47 percent, roads (up 12 points); 45 percent, health clinics (up 8 points); and 44 percent, police stations.
That work is reflected in some related attitudes: While fewer than half, 42 percent, say they have good roads, bridges and other infrastructure in their area, that's up sharply from 24 percent in 2005. Seventy-seven percent rate their local schools positively; 65 percent say they have clean water, up 12 points compared with 2007 and a new high. And 73 percent support the presence of foreign aid organizations in Afghanistan.
Nonetheless, given the continued challenges, fewer, 51 percent, say foreign aid groups are making progress in providing a better life for Afghans. And fewer still, 30 percent of Afghans, say foreign development aid has benefited them personally. There's also concern about its future: Nearly three-quarters are worried about the impact of the global financial crisis on aid to their country.
WAYS FORWARD – As noted, even with their approval ratings down, Afghanistan's own institutions have substantially greater public confidence than Western efforts. Fifty-nine percent think the Afghan government is making progress in providing a better life for Afghans, 75 percent express confidence in its ability to provide security and stability, as many express confidence in their local police, and nearly as many in their provincial government.
Anywhere from 63 to 66 percent report support for these entities among people in their area. And even though support for the central government has declined from 81 percent in 2007 to 65 percent now, these levels remain far higher than support for other players – U.S. or NATO/ISAF forces (as reported above, 37 percent); local commanders, 17 percent; foreign jihadis, 14 percent; the Taliban, 9 percent; and drug traffickers, 7 percent.
In another measure, 57 percent of Afghans rate the performance of the police positively, and ditto for the Afghan Army – not overwhelmingly positive measures, but the best out there. (Again as noted, just 32 rate the performance of the United States positively; 33 percent, NATO/ISAF forces.) Given Afghan institutions' support, it could prove more popular to put their imprint – rather than a Western face – on anti-insurgent efforts.