Afghans more upbeat but corruption worse - survey

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Tuesday, 9 November 2010 05:01 GMT

* 83 pct of Afghans support peace talks with Taliban

* Improved security cited for greater optimism

* Insecurity named top problem, corruption third

By Ian Simpson

KABUL, Nov 9 (Reuters) - More Afghans think their country,torn by three decades of war and civil unrest, is moving in theright direction but worries about corruption are up sharply,according to an Asia Foundation survey released on Tuesday.

In a 2010 gauge of the national mood, 47 percent of Afghansbelieve the country is on the right track, up from 42 percentthe year before, the survey showed.

Thirty-eight percent of those who were upbeat about theprogress their country was showing cited better security, aswell as reconstruction and more schooling for girls.

Lack of security, including attacks, violence andterrorism, topped the national problem list, with 37 percentciting it.

Violence has reached its deadliest levels since theIslamist Taliban were forced from power in 2001. More than oneof every six survey sites had to be switched this year forsecurity reasons, up from 2 percent in 2007.

Eighty-three percent of Afghans support talks withinsurgents and reintegration of armed groups, according to thesurvey, up from 71 percent last year. Karzai&${esc.hash}39;s government hassaid it has made preliminary contacts with insurgents asAfghan, U.S. and NATO officials look for ways to resolve theconflict.

Joblessness remained the number two national problem, at 28percent. Corruption was in third place at 27 percent ofrespondents, up steeply from 17 percent last year.

The jump "may be due to the increased focus, particularlyby the international community, on corruption as a keydimension in bad governance", the report said.

CORRUPTION INDEX

Transparency International, an anti-corruption watchdog,ranks Afghanistan as one of the world&${esc.hash}39;s most corrupt countries,equal with Myanmar and ahead of only Somalia on its list of 178nations.

President Hamid Karzai has been under intense pressure fromNorth Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) countries with troopsin Afghanistan to root out corruption in his government, whichhas complicated the fight against Taliban insurgents.

Critics argue that bad governance and corruption help theTaliban-led insurgency to flourish.

The survey finding suggests "that an increasing proportionof the Afghan public is in favour of a political solution tothe ongoing conflict in the country rather than a purelymilitary one", the report said.

Afghanistan will head the agenda at a NATO summit in Lisbonthis month, with many European NATO members under pressure athome to justify their continued commitment to the increasinglyunpopular war.

U.S. President Barack Obama, who will review hisAfghanistan war strategy next month, has pledged to begin agradual troop withdrawal from July 2011.

The survey interviewed 6,467 Afghans over 18 years of ageand was carried out from June 18 to July 5. The U.S. Agency forInternational Development paid for the poll, the foundation&${esc.hash}39;ssixth in Afghanistan since 2004. (The 2010 survey is available at: http://asiafoundation.org/ag2010poll) (Editing by Paul Tait and Ron Popeski)

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