Their findings were not optimistic.
"In southern Afghanistan, more than one quarter of those interviewed (27%) openly admitted to supporting the Taliban . . . Given the . . . respondents’ caution towards those conducting the survey it is likely that this figure of 27% is somewhat lower than the actual levels of support. . ." This number is up from only 3% in December 2005.
When asked, "Are the international troops helping you personally," only 19% answered yes in those regions controlled by Canadian troops. In regions controlled by U.S. troops, that number dropped to 6.5%. Over 80% of respondents said that they worry about feeding their families. The great majority of these Afghani men know how to fire a weapon.
The report concludes that the people of Southern and Eastern Afghanistan are excellent targets for recruitment into the Taliban ranks, who pay the equivalent of Afghanistan's average annual wage in just two months. In comparison, Afghani government troops and police average less than 20% of these wages.
Only 48% of southern Afghans now believe that their government and NATO are capable of defeating the Taliban. Similar surveys taken at the end of 2001 showed overwhelming faith in the success of the war against the Taliban.
From the report:
It is clear that the Taliban are winning the propaganda war. This victory is now having a direct effect on the war itself, through people’s perceptions of who is going to win. It is likely that this relatively high – and increasing - level of support for the Taliban will prompt further attacks, which will in turn raise levels of support and convictions of success, triggering a positive spiral of support for the Taliban. The ensuing psychological advantage coupled with the ongoing poverty crisis in southern Afghanistan will help the Taliban to recruit thousands of new fighters.
In other news, this article claims that the Taliban are widely celebrating the release of five of their prisoners after the recent hostage crisis that threatened the stability of the Italian presence in Afghanistan. Protesters railed against the Karzai government, which made deals for the life of an Italian reporter, but did treat the lives of the Afghani hostages taken with the Italian reporter with equal weight.
In Kabul, Muhammad Karim Rahimi, a spokesman for President Karzai, said that the exchange “was an exceptional measure taken because we value our relations and friendship with Italy” and that it wouldn't happen again.