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Sunday, March 14, 2010

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

Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

During 2009, the Obama Administration addressed a deteriorating security environment in Afghanistan. Despite an increase in U.S. forces there during 2006-2008, insurgents were expanding their area and intensity of operations, resulting in higher levels of overall violence. There was substantial Afghan and international disillusionment with corruption in the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and militants enjoyed a safe haven in parts of Pakistan. Building on assessments completed in the latter days of the Bush Administration, the Obama Administration conducted two "strategy reviews," the results of which were announced on March 27, 2009, and on December 1, 2009, respectively. 

Each review included a decision to add combat troops, with the intent of creating the conditions to expand Afghan governance and economic development, rather than on hunting and defeating insurgents in successive operations. The new strategy has been propounded by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who was appointed top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan in May 2009. In his August 30, 2009, initial assessment of the situation, Gen. McChrystal recommended a fully resourced, comprehensive counter-insurgency strategy that could require about 40,000 additional forces (beyond 21,000 additional U.S. forces authorized in February 2009). On December 1, 2009, following the second high level policy review, President Obama announced the following: 

• The provision of 30,000 additional U.S. forces. This would bring U.S. force levels to about 100,000 once all these forces deploy. Allies pledged another 9,000 in concert with the announcement, which would bring their levels to about 46,000. 

• A conditions-based plan to begin to draw down U.S. forces beginning in July 2011. The intention of setting this notional time frame was, according to senior U.S. officials, to focus Afghanistan's government on improving its effectiveness and its ability to take the security lead. 

The new policy was announced prior to a major international meeting in London on January 28, 2010, which focused on and generally backed Afghan and NATO plans to try to persuade insurgent fighters and leaders to end their fight and join the political process. Afghan President Hamid Karzai received this backing despite going into the conference politically weakened by the extensive fraud in the August 20, 2009, presidential elections and his subsequent difficulty obtaining parliamentary confirmation of a new cabinet. He came into the conference with ten ministerial posts still unfilled. Immediately after the conference, a greater sense of optimism started to take hold with comments to that effect by Gen. McChrystal. His comments, and similar assessments by other U.S. officials as well as outside experts, coincided with the launch of "Operation Moshtarak" to push insurgents out of Marjah and establish Afghan governance there, and successful arrests of and strikes on key Afghan militants in Pakistan. 

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. A wide range of other CRS reports on many aspects of the Afghanistan issue are available on the CRS website at:

Date of Report: March 1, 2010
Number of Pages: 93
Order Number: RL30588
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