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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 December 2006, 02:09 GMT
Afghan optimism hit by violence
By Nick Childs
World affairs correspondent, BBC News

Afghan children and a Canadian soldier seen through razor wire in Kandahar
The rising violence has hit optimism in southern provinces
An opinion poll in Afghanistan suggests optimism about the country's future has fallen significantly in the last year.

But the poll shows that a majority of Afghans still believe that the country is heading in the right direction.

However, there has been a slump in confidence in southern provinces, where Nato forces have been involved in heavy clashes with Taleban fighters.

The poll - for ABC news in the US and the BBC World Service - surveyed just over 1,000 adults across Afghanistan.

Worrying trend

On the face of it, this survey appears to reveal a serious slump in confidence in Afghanistan in the past year.

Graphic showing levels of optimism in Afghanistan

The number of Afghans believing the country is heading in the right direction is down from 77% to 55%, those thinking security is better now than under the Taleban is down from 75% to 58%.

Those who are optimistic about their own future amount to 54%, down 13%.

The statistics are even gloomier in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar, the scene of intense fighting between Nato and Taleban forces.

Now, only four out of 10 people there think things are heading in the right direction, barely half the figure of a year ago. Eighty percent rate their security as poor.

These trends, if they continue, will be worrying to the authorities in Kabul, Washington and London.

On the other hand, they will surely be heartened that, in the circumstances, there are still positive majorities in the country, not least when comparisons are made with the time when the Taleban were in charge.

These include big majorities overall still backing the US-led invasion, the presence of foreign forces and the current Afghan government compared to the Taleban.

But nearly 80% of people are worried about government corruption.

Also troubling in terms of Western policy, more people than a year ago - 40% to 26% - now believe it is acceptable to cultivate opium poppies, with the figure rising to nearly 60% in poppy-growing areas.

Overall, this survey suggests limited support for the Taleban. But many more people than a year ago - 57% - see the Taleban as the main threat facing Afghanistan.

The poll was conducted via face-to-face interviews with 1,036 randomly selected Afghan adults across the country.

The BBC's Afghanistan poll findings explained

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