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Asia Foundation survey finds Afghans 'cautiously optimistic' amid security, economy concerns

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KABUL, Afghanistan — The number of Afghan people who feel their country is moving in the wrong direction has risen this year, as concerns about security, corruption and unemployment show marked increases over 2013, a survey released Tuesday showed.

The San Francisco-based Asia Foundation found that 54.7 percent of Afghans think the country is moving in the right direction, down from 57.2 percent last year, while the number who feel the opposite — 40.4 percent — is up from last year's 37.9 percent.

Security, corruption and unemployment were among the major concerns facing Afghans, it found in the survey of 9,271 people, conducted in June and July across Afghanistan's 34 provinces.

Fear for safety has risen significantly in the past year, to 65.4 percent, from 59 percent last year, the survey found. More than 76 percent of Afghans said they would be afraid when traveling around the country.

Almost as many, 72 percent, said that efforts by the government to reconcile with insurgent groups would help bring stability after more than 30 years of war.

The Asia Foundation has been conducting surveys in Afghanistan for 10 years. For this year's research it contacted members of 14 ethnic groups, with 50.1 percent of respondents male and 49.9 percent female.

Afghanistan is facing major political and security challenges this year following a contested election process that installed Ashraf Ghani as president. The withdrawal at the end of the year of U.S. and NATO combat troops coincides with an intensifying Taliban insurgency.

Nevertheless, the survey found the national mood one of "cautious optimism" reflecting hopes among ordinary Afghans that the change of government will bring improvements to quality of life issues, including access to education and health care.

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