Afghanistan

More Afghans gloomy over country's future - survey

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KABUL, Oct 28 (Reuters) - More Afghans are negative about their country's future compared with two years ago, with poor security the main factor behind the growing pessimism, a survey by U.S.-based think-tank said on Tuesday.

Violence in Afghanistan has spiralled since 2005 as Afghan and international forces are locked in daily battles with Taliban insurgents trying to overthrow the Western-backed government and to expel the 65,000 foreign soldiers from the country.

Around 4,000 people, a third of them civilians, have been killed as a result of the conflict this year alone.

A survey conducted by the Asia Foundation (AF) this summer, found that while more people see their country heading in the right direction than the wrong one, the number of Afghans who are positive about their future has decreased steadily since 2006.

"Though the overall mood of the country continues to be optimistic, there has been a clear trend towards greater pessimism over the last two years," the AF said in its report.

"The proportion of respondents saying that the country is moving in the right direction has declined steadily," it said.

The survey is the fourth one conducted by the AF in Afghanistan and was aimed at gauging public opinion on government and development-related issues. More than 6,500 Afghans were interviewed from all 34 of the country's provinces.

POLARISED

Insecurity, particularly threats of violence as opposed to actual experiences of hostility, was the main cause influencing negative opinions, the AF said.

While people in some areas reported improvements in security, others living in the south of the country and in the capital Kabul said security had steadily deteriorated.

"The survey finds that in 2008 the security situation in Afghanistan is becoming more polarised, with respondents in some places feeling secure most of the time and others experiencing relatively constant levels of insecurity," the AF said.

While violence has spread to previously relatively peaceful areas in the last year, most of the fighting occurs in the largely Pashtun southern and eastern areas of the country.

Kabul has also seen its share of violence with insurgents launching several large-scale attacks, including a suicide bombing on the Indian embassy in July in the heart of the city which killed some 58 people, nearly all of them civilians.

Other factors influencing people's opinions participating in the survey surrounded the slow pace of development. Unemployment, poor access to electricity and water, lack of roads and public services were listed as the main problems.

Afghanistan is one of the very poorest countries in the world and average life expectancy at birth is only 44 years.

Unemployment is around 40 percent. Many people in the capital have less than an hour of electricity a day while most rural areas have no access to electricity at all.

(Editing by Valerie Lee)

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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