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Global Poll Shows Public Support for Taliban Negotiations

June 22, 2011

Full Report (PDF)

Negotiating with the Taliban is the public's preferred strategy for NATO to adopt in Afghanistan, rather than trying to defeat the Taliban or withdrawing troops immediately, according to the results of a BBC World Service 24-nation poll released today.

The results of the GlobeScan/PIPA poll of more than 24,000 people indicate that more would prefer to see NATO negotiate with the Taliban on a peace agreement that would include them in the government (40%) than favour either a continued effort to defeat the Taliban militarily (16%) or an immediate military withdrawal (29%). The most common view in 18 countries is that NATO should negotiate, in 3 that NATO should withdraw and in just one that NATO should seek a military victory. In two other countries opinion is divided.

The poll was conducted between December 2, 2010 and February 4, 2011, which was before the killing of Osama Bin Laden by US forces.

The poll suggests that support for continued military action is low among the countries contributing to the current NATO war effort in Afghanistan. Across the ten countries surveyed who have contributed troops to the operation, only 23 per cent of those asked think the alliance should persist with its military strategy, while 30 per cent favour an immediate pullout and 37 per cent would rather see a negotiated settlement. NATO member Germany and Afghanistan's neighbour Pakistan emerge as the countries most likely to want an immediate withdrawal of forces--nearly half (47%) of those polled favour this option in both countries.

The results suggest that even Americans are ambivalent about a continuation of the Afghan conflict--while a higher proportion in the USA than in other countries (42%) support a continued effort to defeat the Taliban militarily, a majority of Americans favour either an immediate troop withdrawal (23%) or a negotiated peace settlement with the Taliban (29%).

Those surveyed in countries with an Islamic majority are heavily opposed to a continuation of the military effort against the Taliban, with nine per cent of respondents in those countries supporting it. But less than half favour immediate withdrawal of forces (39%), while nearly as many would prefer to see a negotiated settlement involving talks with the Taliban (32%).

Results are based on 24,284 in-home or telephone interviews conducted across a total of 24 countries by the international polling firm GlobeScan, together with the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland. The findings about attitudes towards the Afghan conflict are the latest results to be released from the BBC World Service/GlobeScan/PIPA 2011 global poll - a wide-ranging study fielded between December and February that also looked this year at perceptions of China, and ratings of different countries' influence in the world. Other findings from the poll can be seen here.

Steven Kull, director of PIPA comments, "Neither simply withdrawing nor fighting to the end hold much appeal to people around the world. The centre of gravity of world opinion seems to be to negotiate an end to the conflict, even if it means the Taliban will be part of the government."

Doug Miller, Chairman of GlobeScan, said: "Most people across the world, including in America, do not support the current NATO emphasis on defeating the Taliban militarily."


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