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Large Majority of Afghans Support Peace Talks with Taliban

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Friday December 6, 2019
Kabul (BNA) An overwhelming majority of Afghans support the peace process with the Taliban to end an 18-year-long war in the country, according to a new survey published on Tuesday.
The Asia Foundation poll found that 88.7 percent of respondents say that they “strongly or somewhat support” peace talks with the insurgents.
The survey also found that some 64 percent of the respondents shared the view that reconciliation with the Taliban is possible, a 10.5 percentage point increase from 2018. Men (69.6 percent) appeared more optimistic than women (58.5 percent).
The San Francisco-based foundation interviewed 17,812 respondents aged 18 years and above from across the 34 provinces from July 11 to Aug. 7, 2019. The respondents were 51 percent male and 49 percent female.
“In general, peace, reconciliation, security, and economy impacted people’s optimism and pessimism,” Abdullah Ahmadzai, the Asia Foundation’s country representative in Afghanistan said during the presentation of the survey in Kabul.
A little over 36 percent of respondents believed that the country was moving in the right direction while 58.2 percent said Afghanistan was headed in the wrong direction, down from 61.3 percent in 2018.
“One of the main reasons behind the increase in the optimism of the respondents that the country is moving in the right direction was the peace negotiations,” Ahmadzai said.
In a new question added this year, the respondents were asked if they were aware of efforts to negotiate peace with the Taliban. Most of them (77.4 percent) answered in affirmative and almost half of the respondents (48.6 percent) said they felt sufficiently represented in the peace talks.
Despite high levels of unemployment and poor economic conditions, 81 percent Afghans strongly or somewhat agreed that anti-government elements should be given government assistance, jobs, and housing.
A majority of 54.7 percent said protecting Afghanistan’s constitution was “very important,” followed by a strong central government (53.6 percent), freedom of speech (46.0 percent), and freedom of the press (46.4 percent).
Nearly two-thirds of Afghans, 65.1 percent, are either very or somewhat satisfied with the way democracy works in the war-torn country.
The survey launched in 2004 has so far gathered views of more than 129,800 Afghans in its 15 editions, gauging the public perceptions on security, economy, governance, political participation, the role of women and migration.
Some 43.2 percent of respondents said lack of educational opportunities was the biggest problem facing women in the country, followed by rights (34.1 percent), employment opportunities (24.1 percent), violence (18.1 percent), services (13.7 percent), and economic concerns (9.6 percent).
This year, a record number of Afghans (76 percent) supported women working outside their homes, up from 70.3 percent in 2018.
An overwhelming majority (74.5 percent) of respondents said they were increasingly fearful for their safety.
The Taliban continues to be the most dreaded group with 68.9 percent Afghans saying they feared the insurgent outfit the most. Only 12.4 percent of respondents said the Islamic State was a local security threat.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani last month said the country’s security forces had defeated the Islamic State in eastern Nangarhar province, considered the main stronghold of the militant network in the country.
The International Criminal Court  judges in April rejected the request of prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to examine atrocities allegedly committed between 2003 and 2014, including alleged mass killings of civilians by the Taliban, as well as prisoner torture by Afghan authorities and to a lesser extent by U.S. forces and the CIA.
On Wednesday, Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow, speaking as a "friend of the court" in the case, told judges that they should not allow the prosecutor to open a case that targeted American troops when the United States is not a member of the court.
Trump has denounced the ICC, the world's only permanent war crimes court, for its "broad, unaccountable, prosecutorial powers". Washington revoked U.S. travel visas for ICC personnel in response to its work on Afghanistan.
U.S. forces and other foreign troops entered Afghanistan in 2001 following the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States and overthrew the Taliban government, which had been protecting al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. In what has become the United States' longest war, about 13,000 U.S. troops remain there.
A preliminary examination found there was a "reasonable basis" to believe armed U.S. forces had "subjected at least 61 persons to torture" between May 2003 and December 2014.
Separately, members of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency "appear to have subjected at least 27 detained persons to torture in Afghanistan, Poland, Romania and Lithuania."
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