Sep 16, 2019

A record 85% of Afghans say they're suffering

An Afghan girl looks on as she begs for alms. Photo: Wakil Kohsar/AFP/Getty Images

The percentage of Afghans who rated their lives so poorly that they are considered "suffering" shot to a record-high 85%, a new record for the world since Gallup began tracking country-by-country well-being.

Why it matters: The collapse of U.S.-Taliban peace talks and the recent surge in Taliban attacks dispel any expectation that stability is on the horizon for Afghans, and the violence is expected to increase as the country holds a presidential election on Sept. 28.

Details: Gallup's survey reveals that conflict within the country has devastated Afghans' daily lives. They believe their lives will not improve in the next 5 years, and most of the adults interviewed for the survey were 35 years old or younger.

  • 0% of Afghans said they were "thriving," on par with last year — as well as 2013 and 2014.
  • 36% of Afghans surveyed said they smiled or laughed often the previous day, down from 52% in 2016, which is also the lowest figure Gallup has recorded.
  • 52% of Afghans said they experienced worry for much of the previous day, up from 42% in 2016.

The big picture: Afghans have had little opportunity to improve their economic status or rebuild critical infrastructure from lack of physical security, and millions will risk their lives to vote in this month's election.

  • Conflict in the countryside has forced hundreds of thousands of Afghans out of their homes, crowing urban areas with displaced, impoverished people.
  • "It is difficult to foresee the implications that current events may have for the population's wellbeing over the long-term," per Gallup.

Go deeper: Islamic State presence grows in Afghanistan as U.S. mulls withdrawal

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Afghanistan elections: Turnout strikingly low despite few Taliban attacks

An Afghan soldier casts his ballot in Kabul, Afghanistan on Sept. 28, 2019. Photo: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

Afghanistan's presidential election didn't see as much violence from the Taliban as some anticipated, but voter turnout was still shockingly low with fewer than 2.5 million showing up at the polls, reports the Washington Post.

Why it matters: The low turnout suggests that whoever wins the elections will "enter office with a weak mandate to lead the struggling democracy and possibly launch peace talks with the Taliban," per the Post. Polls show that current Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his government’s chief executive, Abdullah Abdullah, are the main contenders, but official results aren't expected until Oct. 17, according to the Post.

Go deeperArrowSep 28, 2019

Mark Esper: Trump ordered stepped-up military operations in Afghanistan

Defense Secretary Mark Esper (L) and President Trump (R). Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Mark Esper indicated on Friday that President Trump has ordered the U.S. military to step up attacks against militants in Afghanistan following failed peace talks with the Taliban, Politico reports.

Where it stands: A Taliban delegation recently met with U.S. diplomat and special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad for informal discussions in the Pakistani capital, the New York Times reports. Taliban members did not identify the talks as formal peace discussions, but said "that one may take place in the future."

Go deeperArrowOct 5, 2019

U.S. service member killed in Afghanistan as Taliban peace talks fizzle

U.S. soldiers walk at the site of a Taliban suicide attack in Kandahar. Photo: Javed Tanveer/AFP/Getty Images

An American Special Forces soldier in eastern Afghanistan was killed in action on Monday, bringing the total U.S. service members to die during combat operations to 17 this year, the New York Times reports.

The big picture: The death comes one week after the Trump administration called off peace talks with the Taliban after a bombing in Kabul killed a U.S. soldier. The Afghanistan war is America's longest, with almost 18 years having passed since Operation Enduring Freedom began. The White House had wanted to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan in 2020, but the plans have since stalled amid uncertainty over the future of peace talks.

Go deeper: House panel subpoenas U.S. Afghanistan envoy in probe of failed peace talks

Keep ReadingArrowSep 16, 2019