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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Afghanistan: Post-Taliban Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy

Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

Upon taking office, the Obama Administration faced a deteriorating security environment in Afghanistan, despite a steady increase in U.S. forces there in recent years. Signs of deterioration included an expanded area and greater intensity of militant operations, higher levels of overall violence, Afghan and international disillusionment with corruption in the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and the ease of infiltration of Taliban militants from safe havens in Pakistan. Building on assessments completed in the latter days of the Bush Administration, the Obama Administration has conducted two "strategy reviews" the results of which were announced on March 27, 2009, and on December 1, 2009, respectively. The outcome of both reviews was to add combat troops but with the intent of creating safe conditions to expand Afghan governance and economic development. As part of the early 2009 review, the President announced an increase of 21,000 U.S. troops, which arrived by November 2009 and brought U.S. force levels to about 68,000, in partnership with about 39,000 international forces from 43 other nations, and about nearly 200,000 Afghan security forces. 

Following the early 2009 review, the Administration decided that more innovative military tactics were also needed to promote U.S. goals, and in May 2009, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David McKiernan, was replaced by Gen. Stanley McChrystal. On August 30, 2009, McChrystal submitted his review of the military strategy, recommending a fully resourced, comprehensive counter-insurgency strategy in order to avoid mission failure. He subsequently recommended that about 40,000 additional U.S. combat forces could be needed to implement his recommended strategy. On December 1, 2009, following a second high level policy review, President Obama announced the following: 

• The provision of 30,000 additional U.S. forces to begin deploying by January 2010 to "reverse the Taliban's momentum and strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan's security forces and government so that they can take the lead." 

• A conditions-based plan to begin to draw down U.S. forces beginning in July 2011. 

• A call for additional partner contributions, much of which have been pledged. 

The international community will review all aspects of policy in Afghanistan at a major international meeting in London on January 28, 2010. Some focus will be on the legitimacy and performance of the Afghan government, called into question most recently by widespread fraud allegations in the August 20, 2009, presidential election. Following extensive investigation and President Hamid Karzai's acknowledgment that he did not achieve a first round victory, his main opponent pulled out of a run-off and Karzai was declared the winner. He has since had difficulty obtaining parliamentary confirmation of a new cabinet; after two rounds of nominations and confirmation votes, at least ten ministries lack confirmed ministers. One dispute, over the feasibility of holding parliamentary elections in May 2010 in accordance with constitutional deadlines, was settled on January 24 with a decision to postpone them until September 18, 2010. 

Including FY2009, the United States has provided over $40 billion in assistance to Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban, of which about $21 billion has been to equip and train Afghan forces. 

Date of Report: January 27, 2010
Number of Pages: 92
Order Number: RL30588
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