A recent ABC/BBC/ARD poll released earlier this month found that Afghans’ support of U.S. and NATO forces’ efforts in that nation is tumbling. Just 47 percent said they had a favorable view of the United States, down from 83 percent in 2005. Only 37 percent said that most people in their area support NATO and the International Security Assistance Force; 67 percent supported ISAF in 2006.
Today, ThinkProgress interviewed Afghanistan’s foreign minister, Dr. Rangin Dadfar Spanta. We asked him about the poll’s grim findings and how NATO and the Afghan government “can win back the hearts and minds of the Afghan civilians.” Spanta disputed the poll’s results, claiming that a majority of Afghans still support the U.S.-led international coalition:
SPANTA: Now, this is the opinion to places that you ask the people, the ordinary Afghans, the majority of all the Afghans still support the presence of the international community because they believe that the international community came to Afghanistan after two and a half decades of tyranny in my country…and the international community brought us liberation. This is still the perception of the people of Afghanistan
Spanta later said that Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and Gen. David McKiernan, top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, have agreed that Afghan forces will be more “involved” in the “preparation [and] implantation of military action on operations,” including “arresting Afghans in house searching” to ensure more respect for the culture of Afghans.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has suggested recently that the U.S. lower expectations for its mission in Afghanistan by “setting standards far below the sweeping desires of regional democratization that were a foundation of Bush administration national security policy.” Spencer Ackerman notes that, during a later event hosted by the Center for American Progress, Spanta criticized this new approach, calling it “reductionist” and warning that “any reductionist policy is bound to fail.”