Backing for Taleban waning, US-backed report claims

Support for the Taleban among Afghans has steadily declined in recent years and people strongly back a government peace initiative, according to a survey funded in part by the American government.

But the poll released yesterday by the San Francisco-based Asia Foundation also showed a population weary of insecurity and corruption, and distressed by poverty.

It found that an overwhelming majority of Afghan adults – 82 per cent – back reconciliation and reintegration efforts with insurgent groups.

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It also said the number of people who said they sympathised with the aims of the Taleban had dropped to 29 per cent compared with 40 per cent last year and 56 per cent in 2009. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has been making peace overtures to the Taleban for years with the backing of the international community. These efforts were dealt a major blow by the 20 September assassination of former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was leading the government’s US-backed initiative.

The survey was carried out prior to Mr Rabbani’s murder.

Beyond that, while the survey showed some confidence in Afghanistan’s economic development, it also showed dissatisfaction with the state’s ability to deliver both security and corruption-free government.

“The biggest problem at the national level is insecurity, followed by unemployment and corruption,” said Bruce Tolentino, the foundation’s representative for Afghanistan.