Many in Afghan optimistic, but mistrust government

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SINGAPORE, Oct 23 (Reuters) Many Afghans are optimistic about the direction the war-torn country is taking, but have mixed feelings about their government, a survey released today found.

Forty-two percent of those interviewed this year said things were moving in the right direction, marginally lower than the 44 per cent in 2006, the US-based Asia Foundation said.

That compared to 24 per cent who saw Afghanistan moving in the wrong direction, an increase from 21 per cent the previous year.

It was the Foundation's third such poll since 2004 and involved more than 6,000 interviews with Afghan men and women across the country.

While 80 per cent thought the government was doing a good job, 79 per cent said it did not care what people thought and 69 per cent that talking negatively about the government in public was unacceptable.

Corruption was seen as a major problem throughout government, although: ''Perception of the prevalence of corruption was higher at the national level'', where 74 per cent saw widespread corruption against 48 per cent for the local level.

The Foundation, a non-profit private organisation, said it designed and directed the survey, although funding came from a US government aid agency grant.

Of those surveyed who thought the country was moving in the wrong direction, 48 per cent cited insecurity as the main reason.

A Taliban-led insurgency backed by al Qaeda has intensified in Afghanistan in the past two years, with this year one of the most violent since 2001 when the Taliban lost control of the government in fighting with other Afghan and US-led forces.

Still, two-thirds of those polled thought security in their own areas was good or quite good.

While the government and its foreign allies have scored some major conventional successes this year, the Taliban have increasingly turned to such tactics as suicide bombs and roadside explosives, with much of that activity occurring since field work for the survey was conducted in June.

Government and allied forces have meanwhile been criticised for inflicting civilian casualties, especially in aircraft bombing raids.

REUTERS ARB KN1018

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