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Majority of Afghans back talks with Taliban

An overwhelming majority of Afghans support the government's efforts to negotiate peace with Taliban insurgents, according to a poll released today that ranks insecurity as the top concern among citizens, followed by unemployment and corruption.

world Updated: Nov 09, 2010 12:21 IST

An overwhelming majority of Afghans support the government's efforts to negotiate peace with Taliban insurgents, according to a poll released on Tuesday that ranks insecurity as the top concern among citizens, followed by unemployment and corruption.

Eighty-three per cent of Afghan adults back efforts to secure the country through negotiations with armed, anti-government groups, the survey conducted by the Asia Foundation said. That's up from 71% last year.

Moreover, 81% support programs to lure Taliban foot soldiers off the battlefield by providing assistance, jobs and housing to those who lay down their arms and reintegrate into society.

President Hamid Karzai has made reconciliation a top priority and recently formed a 70-member High Peace Council to find a political solution to the war, now in its 10th year.

Officials in both the government and the NATO military coalition in Afghanistan have confirmed that contacts are being made with top insurgent leaders, but say no formal peace talks are yet under way.

The Taliban has denied that any of their top leaders are talking with the government.

However, reconciliation is gaining support across the war-weary nation, according to the poll.

Nearly three quarters of all respondents think government reconciliation efforts will succeed in helping stabilise the country. Support for a peace process is highest in areas where fighting is the most intense.

Eighty-nine per cent of Afghans in the east, and 85% in the southeast and northwest back reconciliation talks with the Taliban, the survey said.

More than 6,400 adults were polled in June and July in all 34 provinces, excluding some dangerous areas.

The survey, conducted with financial backing from the US Agency for International Development, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4% points.

According to the survey, 37% believe insecurity is the nation's biggest problem. Twenty-eight percent of those surveyed cited unemployment as the worst problem and 27% noted corruption, the poll said.

"Since 2006, insecurity and unemployment have consistently been identified as the biggest problems for the country as a whole," according to a more than 200-page report on the survey.

Rising numbers of Afghans are complaining about graft and bribery. Last year, 17% said corruption was the worst problem facing the nation. This year, that figure jumped to 27%.