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A nationwide survey of people throughout Afghanistan shows more people think the country is moving in the right direction, but a lack of security and corruption are still major concerns.

The poll of more than 6,400 Afghan adults was conducted by the Asia Foundation throughout all 34 provinces in the country.

In areas where fighting has been most fierce between the Taliban and U.S.-led NATO forces Afghans say attacks, violence and terrorism are identified as the country's biggest problem.

However in quieter provinces Afghans see positive trends according to Sunil Pillai, who directed the Afghan Survey Project.
"Among those who believe that it is moving in the right direction, they attribute it to good security and reconstruction efforts," he said.  "Those who say it is going in the wrong direction, they say corruption and insecurity are the primary reasons for this."

Assessments of the performance of the national government rose slightly from a similar poll taken a year earlier.

The 2009 survey was taken before the August presidential election, which was marred by widespread reports of massive fraud.

Afghans gave a more positive assessment of their economic situation than in previous years and both a majority of urban and rural residents say they are more prosperous today than they were under the Taliban.

About two-thirds of those surveyed say the supply of electricity in their local areas is bad, and a third of the respondents report having no access to any electricity.

"When we ask them what is the biggest problem in the local areas we find that security takes a back seat and issues like electricity, roads, water, and unemployment come up on top," added Sunil Pillai of the Asia Foundation.

The survey reports that support for democracy as the best form of government has fallen from 84 percent in 2006 to 78 percent in this year's poll.

In 2009, however, a significantly higher proportion than in previous years say freedom and peace are the greatest personal benefits they expect from democracy.

In terms of local services and amenities, those surveyed showed the highest levels of satisfaction with the availability of education for children, especially girls.

The survey shows satisfaction with reconstruction projects and hospitals also remains relatively strong.

People also show a high level of confidence in their local police according to Sunil Pillai of the Asia Foundation.

"The way they see it is that we trust them," he explained.  "They are honest and they do help us be safer in our areas."

The report comes as U.S. President Barack Obama weighs a new strategy for the eight-year war, including a request by military leaders for thousands of additional troops.

The fact that the Obama administration is giving a great deal of attention to Afghanistan is seen as a major positive according to Zoran Milovic, the Kabul-based representative of the Asia Foundation.

"I spoke with a lot of Afghans during the last year and I think there is one thing that for most of them is of crucial importance," he said.  "That is the U.S. government, this administration, is finally paying attention."

A majority of those surveyed expect the security situation in their local area to improve in the next year, although in regions where there is major conflict, respondents are less optimistic about future improvements.