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Memo to Daily Show Audience: The Afghans Don’t Hate Us

Posted on April 6 2010 11:17 am
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Iranian-American writer Reza Aslan was on The Daily Show last night to promote his new book, Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting Religious Extremism in the Age of Globalization. He and Jon Stewart began discussing the war in Afghanistan, with Stewart later on in the interview saying that he favored withdrawing from the country and expressed his frustration with the campaign for democracy in the region.

The two were justifiably angry over Hamid Karzai’s corrupt government and his threat to join the Taliban if U.S. pressure didn’t cease. Aslan said that Karzai is a politician and was trying to play to an Afghan audience that “hates” the United States. He tied this to the neglect Afghanistan suffered because of the Iraq War, saying that the Afghans loved America at first and now are against us.

Below is the video:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
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Aslan’s remarks puzzled me, because I remembered that numerous polls showed Afghanistan as being relatively pro-American, although such sentiment has significantly declined over the years. A poll from January 2010 shows that the viewpoints of the Afghans are far more positive than Aslan assessed on the show.

The poll found that 51% have a favorable view of the United States, a sharp decline from the 83% that did in 2005 but a remarkable number for an Islamic country nonetheless. 38% view the U.S. effort in Afghanistan favorably, a 6% increase over the previous year. And now here’s the big news: A whopping 68% support the U.S. military presence in the country, an increase in five percent over the past year, and 61% support President Obama’s decision to send more troops.

The Taliban is also not as popular as the interview would lead you to believe. 69% view the Taliban as their greatest threat, and 90% prefer the current government over the Taliban. 42% blame the Taliban for the violence in the country, up from 27% over last year. Only 17% blame the Afghan government, U.S., or NATO, a sharp drop from the 36% that did last year.

I think that a correlation can be made between the success of the war in Afghanistan and the Afghan people’s views of America. This is something I’ve noticed in talking to people in the greater Middle East. If the U.S. is unable to help the people, it is often assumed that it is because we don’t care enough. After all, we put a man on the moon. The fact that the favorably of the U.S. and dislike of the Taliban grew after President Obama’s decision in 2009 to send more soldiers and that the Afghans support the latest surge indicates that this may be the key to winning their hearts and minds.

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