WASHINGTON, D.C. -- As NATO, the United Nations, and regional neighbors take stock of their roles in Afghanistan, Gallup surveys provide insight into what roles Afghans think these groups or countries are playing and should play in resolving the situation. Afghans surveyed in June were most likely to think NATO, the United Nations, India, and Iran are playing roles in reconstruction. In regard to Pakistan, however, Afghans were just as likely to say that country's role is supporting the Taliban as they were to say it is helping with reconstruction.
The future of NATO's mission in Afghanistan, or at least its momentum, largely hinges on whether U.S. President Barack Obama decides to commit more troops. The alliance announced Wednesday that it was delaying a conference on pledging reinforcements until Obama announces his decision. Newly sworn-in Afghan President Hamid Karzai addressed the future of NATO's Afghanistan mission Thursday during his inauguration, saying he is certain that member states "will take more effective steps to accelerate the readiness of the Afghan National Army and police" and that he hoped Afghan forces would lead the task of security and stability in the next five years.
As with the other groups and countries Gallup asked about, Afghans were most likely to think NATO is playing a role in reconstruction (44%). Twenty percent said the alliance's role is peacekeeping -- more than said the same about any other group or nation tested. Slightly smaller percentages of Afghans said NATO's current role is economic development (15%) and supporting the present government (13%).
The roles Afghans think NATO should play were mostly in accord with those they think it does play. Afghans were more likely to say the organization should play a role in reconstruction (51%) than to say it currently plays this role (44%), but were somewhat less likely to say it should play a role in supporting the present government (7%) than to say it currently does (13%).
The United Nations
Although the United Nations temporarily relocated staff after a deadly attack in October, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said its decades-long mission in Afghanistan would continue. As further evidence of the organization's commitment, the U.N. General Assembly last week renewed its support for reconstruction efforts. A majority of Afghans (51%) surveyed in June said the United Nations currently plays a reconstruction role in their country and a higher percentage (57%) said this is the role the organization should play. Smaller percentages identified the United Nation's current role as economic development (14%) and peacekeeping (15%); similar percentages said the group should play these roles.
India is now the largest regional aid donor to Afghanistan, committing funds to education, health, and telecommunications, and building highways and dams. The country's increasing visibility in reconstruction and development efforts is evident in the roles Afghans see the country as playing and think India should play. A majority of Afghans (56%) surveyed in June said India currently plays a role in the reconstruction of their country and 59% said this is the role the country should play. At least one in seven Afghans identified India's current role in economic development (15%) and said India should play this role (16%).
Afghanistan shares ethnic and religious ties with bordering Iran, which lately has been promoting a regional solution to stabilizing Afghanistan. As with the other groups and countries Gallup asked about, Afghans were most likely to see Iran playing a role in the country's reconstruction. Thirteen percent of Afghans also said Iran currently plays a role in economic development, but the same percentage (13%) said Iran plays no role at all.
Afghans were more likely to say Iran should play a role in reconstruction (50%) than to say it currently plays this role (42%), but were also more likely to say it should play a role economic development (18%) and peacekeeping (8%) than they were to say it currently does.
Reflecting the often-strained relations between the two countries on such issues as border security, Afghans were as likely to say Pakistan's current role in Afghanistan is supporting the Taliban leadership (33%) as they were to say its current role is reconstruction (30%). Afghans were more likely to say that Pakistan should play a role in reconstruction, with nearly half of residents (45%) saying this.
Thirteen percent of Afghans also said Pakistan currently plays a role in economic development. They were more likely to ideally see Pakistan in a peacekeeping role (12%) than to say this role is currently being played (4%). Conversely, Afghans were far less likely to say Pakistan should play a role in supporting the Taliban leadership (9%) than to say it currently plays that role (33%).
In his inauguration speech, Karzai said an international conference will take place soon about future cooperation between Afghanistan and the international community and "reaffirm mutual responsibilities and commitments." A great deal of this cooperation hinges on whether Karzai will keep his promises to fight corruption and champion reform, but Gallup's data suggest it is important to the Afghan people that the cooperation continues. Few Afghans think these groups and countries should play no role in resolving the situation in their country and many have opinions about the roles that they should play.
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Results are based on face-to-face interviews with a nationally representative sample of 1,000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted in June 2009 in Afghanistan. For results based on the sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.