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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 December 2006, 12:07 GMT
Violence 'eroding Afghan hopes'
An Afghan woman in a burka stands overlooking the capital, Kabul
Afghans worry about violence and poverty but back the government
Optimism in Afghanistan has slumped in the past year amid worsening violence, an ABC/BBC poll has found.

While a majority remain hopeful about the future, the mood has darkened because of concern over the resurgent Taleban, poverty and corruption.

But most people backed Hamid Karzai's government and more than 70% said they welcomed the foreign troop presence.

Nationally, the Taleban proved very unpopular, although levels of support showed significant regional variations.

The poll, a joint project by ABC News in the US and the BBC World Service, surveyed 1,036 Afghans nationwide via face-to-face interviews. An equal number of men and women were interviewed.

It comes with Afghanistan embroiled in the bloodiest period of violence since US-led troops overthrew the Taleban's radical Islamic government five years ago.

Taleban 'greatest threat'

According to the survey, Afghans viewed their country with significantly more pessimism than a year ago. Fifty-five percent thought that Afghanistan was going in the right direction, a drop of 22 points since October 2005.

Graphic showing levels of optimism in Afghanistan

President Hamid Karzai's approval rating was down by 15 points, although 68% still rated him as good or excellent and a similar figure backed his government.

Nearly six out of 10 people said security was better now than under the Taleban, but 40% reported Taleban violence in their local area.

This figure soared in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar, which have seen the fiercest fighting. Only 43% of respondents in these two provinces believed the country was heading in the right direction, a drop of 35 points since last year.

Most Afghans, 57%, called the Taleban the greatest threat to the country and nationally, the Taleban proved very unpopular.

Seventy-six percent of respondents said their impression of the Taleban was very unfavourable, while Osama Bin Laden was even less liked.

But in six provinces in the south-east of the country, support for the Taleban was higher, with almost half said to give them some degree of backing.

Economic woes

More than half believed that US forces should remain until the security situation stabilised, but there was a rise in the number who said that the US should withdraw within a year.

Graphic showing approval of poppy cultivation

There was broad opposition to attacks on troops, government officials and police, with nearly 90% saying that suicide bombings could not be justified.

Acceptance of opium poppy cultivation appeared to be rising, particularly in provinces which are major producers. Forty percent said growing opium was acceptable if there was no other way to earn a living.

Official corruption emerged as a widespread problem, and barely a third of Afghans believed that the economy was in good shape.


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Lack of jobs, poor infrastructure and insufficient medical care remained issues of concern, as did poverty - three-quarters reported monthly household incomes of less than 12,000 Afghanis ($244, 125).

The report also highlighted a growing rural-urban divide, with city dwellers reporting better services and infrastructure, as well as higher ownership of things like mobile telephones and electrical appliances.

Women's rights were seen as having improved since the Taleban - 72% of women described their rights as good.

Yet support for women in management roles remained low and backing for arranged marriages high. Ninety percent of Afghans said hitting a woman was unacceptable.

Graphic showing support for the Taleban

Afghans fears are reflected in the poll findings

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