Friday, November 20, 2009

Afghan Surveys

Today (er, yesterday) I came across two extremely interesting surveys of Afghanistan that were conducted earlier this year and released in the last few weeks, both of which had surprising results. The first was conducted in June and July (before the botched election) by the Asia Foundation, and was impressively comprehensive, featuring interviews in every single province and coming in at 231 pages. Needless to say, I have not read all, or even a substantial portion, of it yet. There are a few things that jump out at me from what I've read so far, though:

•First of all was the way the numbers stacked up against the US. 42% of Afghans thought the country was going in the right direction; Real Clear Politics has us at 37.8%. 68% of Afghans approved of Parliament's performance, compared to only 27% for Congress.

•Ironically, there was great faith in the electoral process; 64% thought that the election would be free and fair. I rather suspect that number has since changed.

•Security in the west of the country has decreased dramatically; see next item. I suspect that part of this is due to the militants having been flushed out of Helmand earlier this year.

•There were a number of villages that the surveyors were unable to visit, usually because of insecurity, inaccessibility (e.g. due to flooding), or there just not being any village by that name (maps of Afghanistan are absolutely awful; I would know). Of the 102 data points (12% of the total) that could not be visited due to insecurity, four were in Kabul (Province), two were in Kapisa, two were in Wardak, five were in Logar, two were in Nangarhar, eleven were in Kunar, one was in Daikundi (the Taliban were also present), eleven were in Ghazni, three were in Paktia, two were in Paktika, two were in Khost, eleven were in Qandahar, one was in Zabul (the Taliban were also present), four were in Uruzgan, seven were in Badghis, three were in Herat, four were in Farah (one of which had a Taliban presence), three were in Baghlan (two with Taliban presences), eight were in Kunduz (where the Taliban is currently trying to shut down an alternate supply line we're establishing so that we don't have to rely so much on the Khyber Pass), three were in Balkh, and ten were in Faryab. Additionally, one data point in Nimroz could not be visited due to the presence of the Taliban but not insecurity. Tomorrow or Saturday I will put together a map depicting this information.

The other poll was by Oxfam; the BBC has a nice summary here. I personally view this one as being less interesting because it was not nearly as comprehensive and was done all the way back from January to April. Additionally, the way in which the data is presented is not very clear, and from what I've been able to garner from it in my current half-asleep daze, I have some serious reservations about its accuracy.

However, some of the questions it asked were extremely interesting, especially what the respondents considered to be the main causes of the present conflict. The answers both give and take hope: On the one hand, only 18% identified the presence of foreign forces as a major factor, on the other hand, the economy (70%) and corruption (48%) were both considerably higher than the Taliban (36%). While I don't think anyone was seriously expecting the Taliban to be number one, it still would have made things infinitely simpler. This is of course assuming that the results are reliable, which I will have to determine at a later date.