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Military poll shows Taliban support in Kandahar

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Murray Brewster, a reporter with plenty of experience in Afghanistan, has this:

Public support for Taliban in Kandahar hit 'all time high' last spring: poll
By Murray Brewster

KANDAHAR, April 6 (CP) - Public support for the Taliban hit an all-time high in Afghanistan's Kandahar province last spring just as the United States was preparing to deploy the first wave of military reinforcements, polling data compiled by the Canadian military suggests.

The data, obtained by The Canadian Press under access to information laws, provide a look at the disenchantment of ordinary Afghans, and perhaps illustrate the method behind the madness of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's recent anti-West rants.

The survey, conducted as part of the military's spring 2009 campaign assessment, illustrates just how much resistance there was even a year ago to the growing U.S. troop buildup in Kandahar.

"International economic assistance is heavily preferred over military assistance," the report said of Afghan public opinion.

A startling 25 per cent of those asked said they had a favourable view of the Taliban, including six per cent with a "very favourable" opinion.

The poll was conducted in most major provincial districts, but the military did not release details about the sample size or methodology. The army has been conducting regular surveys of the Afghan population since 2007.

A human rights group said the sentiments captured in the poll are still present today...

"Fewer Kandaharis report feeling safe than in previous polls; more believe that security is worsening than improving," said the study, carried out in February 2009... (link)

This is not the first time that we have seen mention of these military-run polls. Brewster first mentioned them last year when he reported that "the Taliban pulls down between 15 and 20 per cent support" in the polls. Britain-based academic Antonio Giustozzi recently alluded to them, saying they find higher support for the Taliban and lower support for the Afghan government than do polls conducted for news agencies.

The NATO polling figures are actually not too far from what some professional polling firms have found. In late 2007, a poll conducted for the BBC and others found 23% of respondents in the Afghan southwest reported that the Taliban had local support.

Other experts feel that even these surprising figures understate Taliban support. This is not outlandish given that, for Afghan civilians, there is quite a risk associated with declaring to NATO-backed pollsters one's support for the Taliban. In a briefing prepared for the Pakistan Security Research Unit, veteran Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad writes of a January 2007 conversation he had with the then head of the British PRT in Helmand, and current British ambassador to Congo (DRC), Nicholas Kay. Kay told him that the majority of the population of southwest Afghanistan support the Taliban.

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