Thursday, November 19, 2009

Oxfam's survey of Afghans: their wishes are no mystery

An Oxfam poll of 704 randomly selected Afghans reveals untold suffering-- 1 in 5 say they've been tortured, three quarters have been forced to leave their homes at some point in the endless civil war, 43% have had property destroyed. The survey also has what would seem to be some moderately encouraging findings regarding the counterinsurgency: 70% see unemployment and poverty as a key driver of civil war; 48% blame the government's weakness and corruption; 36% point to the Taliban; 25% to interference by neighboring countries; just 18% to the presence of international forces; another 18% to d al Qaeda-- and another 17% to the lack of support from the international community. After 30 years of civil war, only 3% named the current conflict as the most harmful period (though the report cautions that areas where the current fighting is worst are underrepresented).

The Oxfam recommendations, channeled through selected comments of the surveyed Afghans, are not surprisingly a mirror of McChrystal's stated goals and strategies: provide not only more aid but more effective aid; root out Afghan government corruption; stop killing civilians via airstrikes; desist from invasive and violence house searches; hold coalition forces that kill or abuse the population accountable for their actions; respect the local culture.

Oxfam adds "recommendations" for the Taliban, delivered deadpan, without irony -- which in a sense produces its own irony. Most western observers are hyper-conscious by now that killing civilians undermines support; but both the survey numbers and the quoted comments make it clear that the Taliban's wanton killings make it less popular than the coalition forces or the government. Likewise, what seems a bold speculative move to some western strategists comes across as a weary necessity from Afghan civilians:
Our message to the Taliban is that they should take part in the government - Male, Herat

The Taliban should not fight; they should express their demands through dialogue - Male, Kabul

Our message to the Taliban is that if they are really Muslim, then why are they fighting against the government since the government is also an Islamic government? - Male, Baikh
One gets the impression that the Afghans have no illusions about their government, and also no illusions about the Taliban. They are more war weary than we can fathom -- and like Richard Holbrooke, they will know success -- -- any modicum of peace, justice and development -- when they see it . Or rather, they would know it if they were ever to see it. They were apparently not surveyed as to hopes.

1 comment:

  1. Found your blog, and you're right on. I just came back from deployment a few weeks ago. Throughout our summer in Helmand Province it was clear that the people are very tired of the war, tired to the point of acceptance in many cases. People die all over the place, kids, adults, elderly. It's just the way things are there. This feeling is hard to put into words or capture with a survey.