Only Americans remain upbeat about Afghanistan: poll

15th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

Confidence in Afghanistan's prospects is crumbling in the West, with only Americans showing prevailing optimism about stabilising the war-ravaged country, a poll showed Wednesday.

The wide-ranging Transatlantic Trends study by the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) also saw deep divisions between Europe and the United States on how to handle Iran's nuclear ambitions.

While 51 percent of Americans said they were confident that Afghanistan could be stabilised in the coming years, down from 56 percent in 2009, Europeans were far less upbeat with only 23 percent sharing that view.

The European figure, down from 32 percent last year, was based on an average of opinion polls in 11 European Union member states.

A European country-by-country breakdown showed a wide range of opinions -- all relatively gloomy -- with only 34 percent of Britons positive about the outlook in Afghanistan, against 18 percent in France and just 10 percent in Germany.

"Only Americans remain optimistic about stabilising Afghanistan," said GMF senior transatlantic fellow Constanze Stelzenmueller as she presented the annual study.

While 41 percent of Americans called for their troops to be withdrawn or reduced in Afghanistan, up from 30 percent last year, the European figure hit 64 percent, a rise from 57 percent.

Views on Iran also differed sharply on the two sides of the Atlantic.

While 86 percent of Americans and 79 percent of Europeans said they were concerned about Iran acquiring nuclear weapons, they disagreed on how to prevent this.

A plurality of EU respondents -- 35 percent -- said they wanted to offer economic incentives to Tehran if it abandoned sensitive nuclear work while a plurality of Americans -- 40 percent -- called for tougher economic sanctions.

Few respondents favoured a military strike against Tehran at this stage, but given an ultimatum between a nuclear-armed Iran and military action, those surveyed showed a wide spectrum of opinions.

A majority of Americans (64 percent) and a plurality of Europeans (43 percent) backed military action in such a case. Only Britons (57 percent) and Turks (54 percent) said they would accept Iran as a nuclear power over military action under these circumstances.

The survey was carried out in June in Britain, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey as well as the United States.

© 2010 AFP

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