Security Situation Seen as ‘Bad’ by One in Five Afghans; 80 Percent Say Corruption Affects Daily Life

By Edwin Mora | November 24, 2010 | 2:16 PM EST

Caption: A US Army soldier from First Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division speaks to an Afghan man in West Now Ruzi village, district Panjwai, Afghanistan's Kandahar province, Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2010.(AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

( – About 20 percent of Afghans perceive the condition of their country’s security as “bad” and approximately 80 percent believe “corruption affects their daily lives,” according to Department of Defense (DOD) report sent to Congress yesterday.

The report also linked the strength of the Taliban to the perception among Afghans that coalition forces will be withdrawing from the country soon.

As of the end of September, “The number of Afghans rating their security situation as ‘bad’ is the highest since the nationwide survey began in September 2008,” the report stated. “This downward trend in security perception is likely due to the steady increase in total violence over the past nine months.”

According to the report, 20.7 percent of Afghans regarded their security situation as “bad,” 42.4 percent rated it as “fair,” and 36.6 percent as “good.”

The DOD congressionally-mandated report that was sent yesterday is submitted every 180 days. It keeps tabs on the government, economic, and military activity in Afghanistan to measure U.S.-led coalition success in achieving President Obama’s goal of disrupting, dismantling, and defeating the insurgency in that country.

The report covers activity from April through September, and administration officials warned that changes have occurred since then.

According to the report, about eight of every 10 Afghans surveyed believe their everyday life is affected by corruption.

“[A] September 2010 survey shows that 80.6 percent of Afghans polled believe corruption affects their daily lives,” stated the report. “This is consistent with the view that corruption is preventing the Afghan Government from connecting with the people and remains a key reason for Afghans supporting the insurgency.”

However, the report also highlighted that “an important aspect of progress in governance is the people’s perception of improvement. The latest nationwide survey shows that 48 percent of Afghans polled believe that Afghanistan is heading in the right direction.”

Although the percentage of Afghans who have a positive “perception of improvement” is substantial, corruption remains on the rise, according to the report.

“Despite some efforts by the Government of Afghanistan to eliminate corruption and improve rule of law, overwhelming reports of corruption continue,” the report said. “If corruption activities continue to go unchecked at current levels, they threaten to keep the population separated from the government.”

“Corruption and the perception of corruption continue to negatively affect the reputation of the AUP [Afghan Uniformed Police] among the Afghan population,” it added.

The report suggested looking into defense contracting practices as a “powerful tool” in combating corruption.

“Contracting expenditures represent a powerful tool in the anti-corruption fight, and U.S. and international contracting agencies must be pushed to look beyond cost, schedule, and performance and to focus most intently on the impact of select contracts on the counterinsurgency effort and on Afghan perceptions regarding the credibility of the Afghan Government,” stated the report.

The U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), under the leadership of Gen. David Petraeus, has put in place efforts to deal with the contracting corruption in Afghanistan.

“Corruption continues to have a corrosive effect on ISAF efforts in Afghanistan. Afghan perceptions of injustice and the abuse of power fuel the insurgency in many areas more than the Afghan Government’s inability to provide services do.”

According to the report, the perception among the Afghan population that U.S.-led NATO forces will be leaving shortly fuels the Taliban’s strength.

“The Taliban’s strength lies in the Afghan population’s perception that Coalition forces will soon leave, giving credence to the belief that a Taliban victory is inevitable,” stated the report. “The Taliban is not a popular movement, but it exploits a population frustrated by weak governance.”

A senior defense official who discussed the DOD report on background with Pentagon reporters yesterday dismissed the notion that the July 2011 date set by Obama as the beginning of a troop withdrawal feeds the perception that coalition forces will be leaving soon and that such perception has been a factor in the administration’s seemingly pushing back from that date.

The administration has now said its goal is a transition of security tasks to Afghan forces that will begin in July 2011 and last until the end of 2014.  And NATO’s recent summit in Lisbon agreed to an ongoing commitment to Afghanistan beyond the end of 2014.

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