Polling in Afghanistan: Rocket Attacks, Arson and Highway Bandits

PHOTO Afghanistan PollACSOR photo
An interview in Takhar province, in the North. Among employed Afghans (almost all men), 53 percent are farmers, farm laborers or unskilled workers; another two in 10, skilled workers or artisans. Fifty-seven percent report incomes equaling $100 a month or less.

Taliban clashes, suicide attacks and an encounter with highway bandits punctuated field work during the latest national poll in Afghanistan for ABC News and its media partners, underscoring the challenges -- and physical hazards -- of public opinion research in conflict areas.

And then there's the traffic.

It's no small matter: Given Afghanistan's famously poor roads and aggressive drivers, six separate supervisors of interview teams reported car crashes during their work, some of them resulting in fatal injuries. In Panjshir, the supervisor listed transportation problems as follows:

1- Lack of mini buses 2- High prices of fuel, and road fares 3- Anarchy.

Nor is the chaos confined to the drivers. In Baghlan province, the field supervisor reported both a grenade attack on a wedding party and a raid by anti-government forces: "Tankers were put to fire by the Taliban and one American armored vehicle was completely destroyed by Taliban rocket attack."

The reports of Taliban clashes -- rocket attacks, roadside bombs, torching tankers and schools -- lend anecdotal support to the key findings of the survey, in which views of the U.S. performance and presence in Afghanistan have worsened in the face of increased reports of insurgent activity.

In Nuristan, "Taliban insurgents blazed and set afire to a girls' school," the supervisor reported. A Taliban attack on tankers was reported in Samangan. In Logar, "I watched a series of daunting clashes between the anti-government elements (probably the Taliban) and the ISAF forces on the highway."

In Jawzjan, the field supervisor reported, "During our survey a fight between security police and Taliban took place, the fight continued for four hours." And in Nimroz, "We witnessed rocket attacks on the second day of our work from Taliban on Nimroz airport."

Frustration with the pace of development also fuels negative views of Western efforts, and the supervisor reports described these problems as well. "The road in Salang was not in good condition, it was snowing and cars had crashed and fell down from the mountains," one said. Reaching a distant district in Bamiyan, another reported, "The road was in a very bad condition. Somehow we found a vehicle and went to Waras district and reached there after seven hours."

Mines and roadside bombs were reported in Nimroz, Nuristan and Laghman provinces; a "huge bomb blast" in Kandahar; and Taliban "virgorously active" in two districts in Laghman. There the supervisor allowed himself a personal observation: "I think the improvised explosive devices are very much terrible."

Field notes were collected and translated by the Afghan Center for Socio-Economic and Opinion Research (ACSOR) in Kabul, which has been responsible for field work for each of the six national surveys by ABC News and its media partners in Afghanistan. Design, management and analysis of this year's survey for ABC News was carried out by Langer Research Associates.

This year's supervisor comments follow in full.

Baghlan Finding vehicle for transportation was not a big deal, but the road in Salang was not in good condition, it was snowing and cars had crashed and fell down from the mountains, and for four hours we had to follow the patrol of ISAF forces. They were moving very slow which was very annoying, one car crashed with a big tanker in this accident all passengers in the small car were killed.

In Borka district one person killed all members of his family, and in Jilga district a wedding ceremony was attacked with hand grenades which killed and wounded around 200 people.

The security in Baghlan was not good, tankers were put to fire by Taliban, and one American armored vehicle was destroyed by Taliban rocket attack, in which the armored vehicle itself was completely destroyed and the soldiers were also killed.

Bamiyan The only problem we faced was the road from center to Waras district, the road was in a very bad condition. It was not paved and the drivers were not agreeing to take us there, somehow we found a vehicle and went to Waras district and reached there after seven hours.

Faryab During our survey two traffic accidents happened. Both contained economical and life loss. One suicide attack took place in Khwaja Sabz Posh District which killed and injured lots of people.

Ghor The only problem in Ghor was transportation. One of our female colleagues was stopped by some security personals in Dolaina district, but after looking to official document they treated them good and let them pass. Same thing happened with two other interviewers but they were also treated good after looking to their documents.

The passengers including our interviewers were robbed of money by robbers on the road to one of Ghor districts.

Jawzjan While going to the province the car I was traveling in crashed with another car, in the accident two men from opposite side were killed and two were badly injured.

When our members started the field work, people got frightened and called police after explaining to the procedure to cops we started our field work again.

During our survey a fight between security police and Taliban took place, the fight continued for four hours.

Kandahar Security forces in Kandahar detained a planted bomb in a house. Our moderators were conducting interviews in the meantime when the area was sealed off and besieged by the national security forces. And one hour later the search operation ended.

Operations codenamed "Hamkari" have been conducted by NATO and Afghan National Army forces in the province.

President Hamid Karzai addressed the people of Kandahar in his trip to the district of Arghandab. As people vowed their cooperation to the president, I think many more people would send their children to the lines of National Army and the National Police.

Subsequently on the next day after President Hamid Karzai's trip to the province, a huge bomb blast carried in Arghandab district. Too many innocent people lost their lives in the blast.

Highway one that connects Panjwayee district with the city has been blocked.

Coalition forces are conducting operations in different parts. Our colleagues strived a lot to reach there in order to conduct the interview.

Kapisa In Nijrab district we had lots of problems with transportation. The road to Kohband district was under construction, which made some problems in our transportation.

In Doornama village, Kohband district Kapisa province, one of our interviewers was stopped during the interview by a respondent and the respondent tore down the guide, luckily a person by the name of Zabit who was attorney in local council saved us from him and arrested him so we could get out the village.

The flood destroyed the road to Nijrab district.

Laghman We are often faced with problems in our province. But the biggest problem with us was that we can only find cars going in one direction while traveling from a particular place to another. For example, when we leave for a place by morning, we can easily find cars by fare but cannot find it from that side back by early evening.

Another problem is that, there are Taliban insurgents vigorously active in the Daulat Shah and Alisheng districts of the province where they afflict and endanger our moderators while traveling for an interview.

Roadside bombs are mostly planted in Alisheng district where dozens are being killed and many others sustain injuries each day. I think it has quite often happened! I think the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) are very much terrible.

Armed insurgents are active in Alingar district where travel is an enormous issue. If somebody dares to travel they do confront the problems.

Sometimes devastating deluges hit the village and affects the bridges and roads.

Logar While I was dealing with the project, I saw a tractor which abruptly skidded off the road. This happened on the one highway of Taraz Qala named area. And another car made an accident on the road of Tangi Waghjan valley on one of the busiest highways.

I watched a series of daunting clashes between the anti-government elements (probably the Taliban) and the ISAF forces on the highway that goes to Kolangar district of Logar province. And I heard that something had happened on the same day in Baraki Barak region too.

Worst of all was the rumors that indicated that Taliban insurgents had blocked the way and abducted Afghan National Army soldiers with them.

Nimroz 1- Beside transportation problems, the problems we faced were: 2- Seasonal storms of dust and dirt. 3- Traffic incidents during the storm in Zaranj city. 4- Placing road bombs from government oppositions were making our job difficult and risky.

We witnessed rocket attacks on the second day of our work from Taliban on Nimroz airport.

The security issues were bombing of Taliban and placing bombs and mines on the roads of Kang district and Sia-Chashman village.

Nuristan On my first day of trip, landslide on the main highway had caused blockade of the way. I would just say it was hard.

Taliban insurgents blazed and set afire to a girls' school in Mandool district and demolished the entire school building.

A bomb blast struck the main highway between Laghman and Nuristan provinces. The mine was apparently planted by Taliban. Two people suffered wounds as a result of that blast. The victims were hospitalized by the security forces and they carried two suspected individuals on charges of the assault with them afterwards. People said police forces had launched investigation into the case.

Torrential rains had affected bridges and farmlands in Dawab district. So people were compelled to turn into the district administration to take steps. Eventually the district chief vowed a strong stance.

Paktia There are no return cars in all the districts of the province. We are confronting trouble with this.

There were some people who did not want to be interviewed by us, and were willing to waste our time.

Panjshir Transportation issues (car trouble, car accidents, etc.): 1- Lack of mini buses 2- High prices of fuel, and road fares 3- Anarchy

Events that happen in the villages: 1- Conflict between two influential people from our country. 2- Demonstrations in Roy-Dara suburb of Shatal district about a road building which has been pledged by the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT). District chief has some concerns about the work. 3- Misunderstandings about the work of the municipality.

Samangan While we were going to Samangan province we faced lack of transportation, and on the road of Salang it was snowing and some cars crashed and some fell down from the hills. On the way to Doshi district two tankers were put on fire by Taliban, and we had to wait three hours for American patrol to pass.

In Dara-soof district me and my colleagues faced lots of problems, and while returning we were informed that Taliban have blocked the road, so we had to stay there for one more day.

Wardak On Sayed Abad highway in Dasht Toob area, a mini car made an accident with a giant vehicle where three people lost their lives.

Elsewhere, five people killed in a separate accident between a van and trailer in Maidan Shahr area of the province.

Taliban militants took with them a person on charges of being Arbaki (tribal militia) and was sentenced to heavy castigation.