Afghan Journal

Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics

Kandahar trusts Taliban more than govt – US army poll

April 22, 2010
A poppy field in Arghandab River Valley in Kandahar province REUTERS/Tim Wimborne)

(A poppy field in Arghandab River Valley in Kandahar province. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne)

The people of Kandahar province have greater trust in the Taliban than in the local government and an overwhelming majority consider them to be our  “Afghan brothers” according to a poll commissioned by the U.S.  army ahead of an impending offensive in the Taliban’s spiritual capital.

How is the offensive,  intended to be the turning point in the nearly nine-year war to proceed then, especially when U.S. army commanders have said they need the people’s support before any major operation can be launched in the southern province ?

Danger Room, a military-focused blog, said the unclassified report by the army’s Human Terrain System was a warning that a lack of confidence in the Afghan government “sets conditions for a disenfranchised population to respond either by not supporting the government due to its inability to deliver improvements in the quality of life or, worse yet, by supporting the Taliban.”

The survey draws on a total of 1,994 interviews covering nine of Kandahar Province’s 16 districts. But it leaves out seven crucial districts because they were considered too dangerous for the pollsters to visit. Still as the blog notes the results are telling. Here is a PDF of the report.

Among the findings : Security on the roads is a major issue for residents of Kandahar.  At least half of those polled in eight out of 10 districts said they felt unsafe travelling within their district or around the province.  Worse, they said the  biggest threat to security while travelling in the province were Army and police checkpoints.

A  sudden spike in incidents involving civilian casualties  in recent days has underscored the continuing threat to ordinary Afghans  even though the overall number of civilian casualties has fallen following new guidelines introduced by the commander of  U.S and NATO forces,  General Stanley McChrystal, as part of his strategy to win back the trust of the people.

This week NATO said troops opened fire on a vehicle in southeastern Khost province killing four unarmed Afghans.  The father of two of the victims said three of those killed were teenagers and the fourth was a policeman.  They were returning from a volleyball match.

Last week, foreign forces opened fire on a passenger bus outside Kandahar city,  killing four civilians and wounding 18. NATO said the bus was travelling at a high speed towards one of its convoys and did not stop even when troops used flares and light signals as warnings.

No wonder some Afghans fear security forces as much as the militants if not more. Indeed as the survey points out the majority of the people want reconciliation with the Taliban considered to be part of Afghan society.

Some interesting statistics  from the report: 94 percent said it was better to negotiate with the Taliban, 85 percent described them as “our Afghan brothers” and 81 percent were confident most Taliban would stop fighting if given jobs. More than half said the Taliban couldn’t be corrupted, which a  large number of people believe is the cause of conflict in the country.

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