Afghans are more pessimistic about the direction of their country, less confident in the ability of the United States and its allies to provide security and more willing to negotiate with the Taliban than they were a year ago, according to a new poll conducted in all of Afghanistan's 34 provinces.
But residents of two key southern provinces that have been the focus of U.S. military operations over the past year say aspects of their security and living conditions have improved significantly since last December.
The new poll - conducted by The Washington Post, ABC News, the British Broadcasting Corp. and ARD television of Germany - found a particularly notable shift in public opinion in Helmand province, where Marines have been conducting intensive counterinsurgency operations. The number of people in Helmand describing their security as "good" jumped from 14 percent in a December 2009 poll to 67 percent now. Nearly two-thirds of Helmand residents now say Afghanistan is on the right track.
Lots of stuff here for people on both sides of the U.S. political divide to use to advance their cases. For me it's telling that most Afghans A) want to see a political deal with the Taliban and B) want to see the U.S. and NATO start to leave.