January 11, 2010 / 3:47 PM / 10 years ago

Afghans optimistic on future, support Karzai -poll

By Kylie MacLellan

LONDON, Jan 11 (Reuters) - A majority of Afghans are confident about the future of their country, a national opinion poll showed on Monday, with 72 percent rating President Hamid Karzai as doing a good or excellent job.

The survey, commissioned by the BBC, ABC News and German broadcaster ARD, found the number of people who thought things in Afghanistan were "going in the right direction" had jumped to 70 percent, up from 40 percent a year earlier.

More than two-thirds of the 1,534 Afghan adults questioned between Dec. 11 and 23 said they expected their life would be better a year from now, an increase from 51 percent last time.

Despite allegations of corruption, violence and voter intimidation that marred his re-election last year, most Afghans supported Karzai and his government, with 60 percent rating its work good or excellent, up from 48 percent last year.

Just 6 percent said they would rather the Islamic purist Taliban was ruling Afghanistan, compared to 90 percent who favoured the current government.

"Our greatest resource in Afghanistan is the fact that the Afghan people do not want to go back to Taliban misrule," British Foreign Secretary David Miliband told BBC radio.

"This is a war of the mind as much as a war for ground .... the key really is that we don’t rest on our laurels because the next year is an absolutely key year for the future of Afghanistan."

More than two-thirds of respondents said their living conditions were better now than before the fall of the Taliban in 2001. A majority cited the availability of jobs or economic opportunities, roads and other infrastructure as improved.

Problems remained however, with 76 percent saying corruption among government officials or police in their area was a big problem, and 57 percent saying voting in August’s election had not been conducted honestly.

Public approval of the work of the Afghan army has improved, the poll showed, with 28 percent rating it excellent, up 10 percent from last year.

The army has been expanding but calls from Washington and NATO for more Afghan soldiers to work alongside almost 110,000 foreign troops have intensified as foreign casualties soar.

A majority of Afghans supported the presence of NATO and U.S. military forces, with 70 percent strongly opposed to Taliban fighters, whom most blamed for the violence occurring in Afghanistan. (editing by Paul Taylor)

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