Afghan Journal

Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics

B-minus for war on terror in Afghanistan and Pakistan ?

March 18, 2010
(Afghan boys at a cemetry in Kabul. Picture by Ahmad Masood)

(Afghan boys at a cemetry in Kabul. Picture by Ahmad Masood)

Gallup has a new poll out testing the mood inside Afghanistan and Pakistan and it remains downbeat.  Roughly half of those surveyed in both countries said their governments were not doing enough to fight terrorism, despite the infusion of troops in Afghanistan and military offensives in Pakistan.

The dissatisfaction is  even more pronounced the closer you are to the trouble spots.  Nearly 60 percent of those surveyed in Pakistan’s northwest, which is really the ground zero of the war against militant groups, were unhappy with the government’s efforts.  Afghans were even more impatient, with some 67 percent in the east which faces Pakistan’s troubled  northwest, registering their disappointment.

 So for all the missile strikes by unmanned drones  on leaders of al Qaeda and the Taliban, and successful  ground operations in difficult places such as Pakistan’s south Waziristan, the people’s perceptions about their government’s efforts to fight terrorism haven’t changed much. Gallup says these findings reinforce the view that what happens after a battle is almost as important as the battle itself.   Winning a battle doesn’t necessarily mean people start feeling fully secure. Also as  this Reuters analysis points out, the Pakistani Taliban may be down, but they are not out by any means.  

The poll conducted in November-December 2009 also threw up another key finding: people on either side of the Afghan-Pakistan border have no love lost for the Taliban.  Eight in 10 Afghans, on an average,  said the Taliban had a negative influence. Even in Kandahar, the spiritual centre of the Taliban, the majority of those polled said they had a negative influence although the number of people seeing them in a favourable light increased from a June 2009 poll. 

They are just as unpopular in Pakistan. Only four percent thought the Taliban presence had a positive effect, down from 15 percent in June.

So if the Taliban are getting such a clear thumbs-down from  members of the public, can you really seek reconciliation with them as a way to end the eight-year war in Afghanistan ?

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