The Asia Foundation survey of Afghanistan: not as optimistic as last year…
Summary: a large poll of the mood of ordinary Afghans finds increasing pessimism over security, governance, unemployment and the economy
The Asia Foundation released in December their annual survey of the mood of the people of Afghanistan. The report interviewed over 12,000 Afghans from all ethnicities, checking their views on the progress in the country over a range of themes: security, governance, the economic and society.
Although all such large-scale opinion surveys have faults and flaws – accessing difficult and dangerous districts hamper understanding an accurate sense in key areas – this highly detailed report is generally very helpful in giving a sense of Afghanistan’s overall mood, particularly as it has now been going for over a decade.
The key messages appear to be that of increasing pessimism when compared to last year and longer:
- An ongoing downward trend in overall optimism from the highpoint in 2013: only 29% of the population think the country is going in the right direction.
- 70% fear for their own personal safety – the highest level in ten years – the main problem areas remain in the south, but concerns in the north are also creeping up.
- The Afghan government security forces do not inspire widespread confidence – 20% say the Afghan National Army’s performance is getting worse, 30% think the police are getting worse.
- 93% fear an encounter with the Taliban – but 45% of the population fear meeting the Afghan police.
- Corruption and unemployment are major concerns beyond the security situation – the belief that Afghans can influence their local government is the lowest (44%) for ten years.
This looks an accurate but depressing indicator of the state of play. The lurch downwards from 58% in 2013 to 29% in 2016 in those thinking the country is wrongly headed is a very stark warning. But there do not appear to be any early signs of improvement in 2017: a strengthened Taliban, a wobbling government and potential disengagement from a Trump-led America present worrying signs for the new year.