In Afghanistan, public confidence in the future reaches a new low

More Afghans fear their country is headed in the wrong direction than at any point in the past decade, according to an annual survey of public opinion in Afghanistan released Tuesday.

The Asia Foundation survey found that 57.5% of people across the country believe the country is moving in the wrong direction, and 67.4% fear for their personal safety.

Both figures are the highest since the Washington-based group began conducting the survey in 2004.

The group surveyed 9,586 people across the nation's 34 provinces and describes its research as the broadest nationwide survey of Afghan public opinion.

The lack of optimism is based largely on increasing unemployment, deteriorating security and the lack of progress on curbing corruption by President Ashraf Ghani’s government, which has been in office for more than a year.

“The results show increased skepticism in the government’s ability to effectively address these challenges,” said Abdullah Ahmadzai, the Asia Foundation’s country representative in Afghanistan.

In September, the northern city of Kunduz became the first urban center in 14 years to fall into the hands of Taliban insurgents. The fall of Kunduz was preceded by a series of back-and-forth battles between government and opposition forces for control of districts in Badakhshan, Ghazni and Helmand provinces.

Earlier this month, the bodies of seven civilians who were kidnapped by forces believed to be tied to the Syria and Iraq-based Islamic State were found beheaded in the southern province of Zabul. Outrage over the killings led to a massive protest in Kabul last week that drew thousands of people.

The growing uncertainty has led to a large-scale exodus of Afghans over the last year. According to the Asia Foundation, the Afghans most likely to flee the country were young, educated men from urban areas.

“The survey is also a clear signal to the international community and regional neighbors that steadiness, patience, and support are what’s needed as Afghanistan struggles to achieve peace and stability,” Ahmadzai said.

Latifi is a special correspondent.

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