Shocking, and not just because the mainstream media has taken a dim view of the war in Afghanistan over the past year or so. Some people on the right have too, Michael Yon foremost among them. Add to that the sporadic incidents involving high civilian casualties and you might reasonably assume that Afghan public opinion is souring on the war.

But you’d be wrong.

In a public opinion poll of Afghans conducted by Environics Research on behalf of The Globe and Mail, the CBC and La Presse, respondents expressed optimism about the future, strong support for the government of President Hamid Karzai and appreciation for the work being done by NATO countries in improving security…

According to the survey, conducted in person across the country between Sept. 17 and 24 with a representative sample of 1,578 men and women, 60 per cent said that the presence of foreigners in the country was a good thing. Only 16 per cent said it was a bad thing, while 22 per cent said it was equally good and bad…

Nationally, 64 per cent of respondents said they believe the foreigners have made a lot of progress or some progress in the fight against the Taliban. In Kandahar, where the insurgency is still raging, 58 per cent still say the foreigners are doing a good job fighting the Taliban…

The survey pointed to a general sense of optimism in the country with 60 per cent of the national sample and 61 per cent in Kandahar saying they were better off than five years ago. When it comes to the status of women, 73 per cent of respondents nationally said that the women are better off now than they were in 2002…

Support for the Taliban also was surprisingly low, with only 14 per cent of respondents nationally said they had very positive or somewhat positive views of the Taliban. In Kandahar, those positives rose to 20 per cent.

A plurality of 43% in the country as a whole (and 31% in Kandahar) wants troops to remain for however long it takes to crush the Taliban. I wonder if that translates in their minds into decades or, say, another six months or so. The reality depends less on us than on Musharraf and Bhutto at this point. Exit question: Why are Afghans relatively comfortable with occupation while Iraqis aren’t? Is it simply some cultural difference we can’t discern or is it a reaction to the distinction between the type of brutality favored by Saddam vis-a-vis the Taliban? Saddam practiced state terror within the framework of an otherwise semi-functional modern society; the Taliban had regressed to medieval times. Occupation is undeniably an improvement from the latter but, depending upon how far civil society disintegrates in Iraq, not undeniably from the former.