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KABUL – Nearly seven in 10 Afghans support the presence of U.S. forces in their country, and 61 percent favor the military buildup of 37,000 U.S. and NATO reinforcements now deploying, according to a poll released Monday.
Support for U.S. and NATO forces, however, drops sharply in the south and east where the fighting is the most intense, the poll said.
Nationwide, 10 percent of Afghans support the Taliban, but the insurgents are backed by a higher percent of the population — 27 percent — in the country's southwest, the poll said.
The poll of a national random sample of 1,534 Afghan adults was conducted from Dec. 11 to Dec. 23 by ABC News, the BBC and ARD German TV, their fifth since 2005. The poll has an error margin of plus or minus 3 percentage points. Field work was done by the Afghan Center for Socio-Economic and Opinion Research in Kabul, a subsidiary of D3 Systems Inc. in Vienna, Va.
After steep declines in recent years, nearly seven in 10 Afghans also think their nation is headed in the right direction. That's up 30 percent since January 2009. The number of Afghans who expect their lives will be better a year from now also has jumped 20 percentage points from a year ago — to a new high of 71 percent, the poll said.
Moreover, 61 percent of the Afghans surveyed said they expect the next generation will have a better life — up 14 percent in the past 12 months, according to the poll.
However, Afghans' views about the direction the nation is headed are gloomier in high-conflict areas, such as Helmand province in the south, the heart of the Afghan poppy trade and the Taliban-led insurgency, the poll said.
The survey also said that blame is easing on the U.S. and donor nations.
Overall, 42 percent of Afghans blame the Taliban for the violence — up 27 percent from a year ago. Seventeen percent blame the U.S. and NATO, or the Afghan government or Afghan security forces — down 36 percent from a year ago.