A recent (May 2009) face-to-face poll of 3,200 Afghans found a large majority of Afghans want the government to make amends with the Taliban.
Do you think the government should hold talks and reconcile with the Taliban?
Yes: 68% No: 14% Not sure: 18% (link)
The results of the poll, commissioned by the International Republican Institute, are not very surprising. A poll two years ago found 60% of the country in favour of negotiations with the Taliban.
A few of the better Western journalists have also reported the general Afghan desire for negotiations. Washington Post journalist Pamela Constable found in her interviews that most Afghans don’t want a surge, they want a negotiated peace.
Yet, despite Afghan wishes, the surge is on, as 4,000 US Marines have demonstrated with Operation Khanjar, “the first large-scale test of new American tactics and resolve in Afghanistan,” (The Guardian) currently underway in Helmand province.
American military officials say they are confident of quick victory which seems to be defined as clearing and holding land which has eluded the control of NATO forces. But some locals are skeptical:
In my opinion these operations won’t have any good result. The only thing that will give a good result will be peace talks, talks with the Taliban,” Wahdat Khan, a 23-year-old from Helmand, told Reuters television.
Amirollah, from Jalalabad, was blunt in his assessment.
“They haven’t come here for Afghans or to take their hand and give them peace,” Amirollah, 45, said of the Americans… (Reuters) (link)
The operation’s problematic aspects don’t end there. While military spokespeople spout tactics straight out of prevailing COIN doctrine about needing civilian follow-up to get Afghan buy-in, these troops didn’t come prepared for that:
The Afghan army and civilian development workers are conspicuous by their absence in this operation. The state department has not delivered the development specialists it was supposed to send, and their place has been filled temporarily by reservists. Meanwhile, the Afghan army has sold only 500 soldiers, a token presence in what was intended to be a joint operation. (link)
And speaking of opinion, Australians have again voiced their opposition to the war. In a recent poll, 49% of Australian respondents opposed their government’s recent addition of 450 troops to the war in Afghanistan.