Afghans feel­ing more op­ti­mistic de­spite tur­moil

The Star Malaysia - - World -

KABUL: Afghans are slightly more op­ti­mistic about the fu­ture than they were last year, de­spite a stag­nant econ­omy and near-con­stant at­tacks by a re­vi­talised Tal­iban, ac­cord­ing to the re­sults of a na­tion­wide poll.

The an­nual sur­vey by the San Fran­cis­cobased Asia Foun­da­tion, re­leased in Kabul, found that 32.8% of Afghans be­lieve their coun­try is mov­ing in the right di­rec­tion, up from 29.3% in 2016. An­other 61.2% said the coun­try is head­ing in the wrong di­rec­tion, down from 65.9% – a record high – in 2016.

The foun­da­tion ac­knowl­edged that the slight in­crease in op­ti­mism is “dif­fi­cult to ex­plain”.

The coun­try has been mired in war since the 2001 US-led in­va­sion. The Tal­iban have re­grouped and driven Afghanistan’s be­lea­guered se­cu­rity forces from a num­ber of dis­tricts across the coun­try. An up­start Is­lamic State af­fil­i­ate has mean­while car­ried out sev­eral at­tacks tar­get­ing civil­ians.

The foun­da­tion polled 10,012 Afghan men and women in face-to-face in­ter­views con­ducted be­tween July 5 and July 23 in all 34 prov­inces. The poll has a 1.4% mar­gin of er­ror.

The find­ings marked the re­ver­sal of a decade-long down­ward tra­jec­tory, the foun­da­tion said. How­ever, most re­spon­dents ex­pressed con­cern about the se­cu­rity and fu­ture of the coun­try, and 38.8% said they would leave Afghanistan if they had the op­por­tu­nity, the sec­ond-high­est num­ber recorded since the sur­vey be­gan in 2004.

“This year’s data re­flects a rise in op­ti­mism de­spite the chal­leng­ing se­cu­rity en­vi­ron­ment and lack of em­ploy­ment,” Ab­dul­lah Ah­madzai, the foun­da­tion’s Afghanistan coun­try di­rec­tor, was quoted as say­ing.

“Ed­u­ca­tional de­vel­op­ment, agri­cul­tural de­vel­op­ment, good se­cu­rity, and the build­ing of roads and bridges are fre­quently cited as things that are go­ing well at the lo­cal level,” he said.

He said con­fi­dence in pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions has slightly im­proved, though nearly all Afghans say the coun­try’s ram­pant cor­rup­tion af­fects their lives, con­sis­tent with last year’s find­ings.

— AP

Pos­i­tive vibes: Shaolin mar­tial arts stu­dents fol­low­ing their trainer, Sima Az­imi, 20, in black, dur­ing a train­ing ses­sion on a hill­top in Kabul, Afghanistan.

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