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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

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

Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

Following two high-level policy reviews and the appointment of a new overall U.S. commander in Afghanistan in 2009, the Obama Administration says it is pursuing a fully resourced, integrated military-civilian strategy that will pave the way for a gradual transition to Afghan security leadership beginning in July 2011. The policy is intended to address what the Obama Administration considered to be a security environment that was deteriorating despite an increase in U.S. forces there during 2006-2008. Some of the deterioration was attributed to Afghan disillusionment with corruption in the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and the relative safe haven in parts of Pakistan enjoyed by Afghan militants. 

Each of the two high-level policy reviews in 2009 resulted in 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. A total of an additional 51,000 forces were authorized to deploy by the two reviews—21,000 in March 2009 and another 30,000 authorized in December 2009. Each review was accompanied by announcements of force increases by U.S. partners in Afghanistan. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who was appointed top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan in May 2009, is a key architect and proponent of the current strategy. The strategy is predicated not only on creating secure conditions, but also empowering and improving Afghan governance and promoting economic development. These functions have involved a significant buildup of U.S. diplomats and other civilians as advisors and mentors. U.S. diplomats are also adjusting their approach to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who was weakened by U.S. criticism of his failure to curb corruption and by the extensive fraud in the August 20, 2009, presidential elections. He was declared the winner but subsequently had difficulty obtaining parliamentary confirmation of a new cabinet. Ten ministerial posts remain unfilled. 

A major international meeting in London on January 28, 2010, 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. There was not agreement on a more sweeping attempt to reconcile with high-level insurgent figures, although Karzai has been pursuing such an initiative and will continue that effort at a "peace jirga" in Kabul planned for the end of April. As these efforts unfold, a greater sense of U.S. official optimism started to take hold, with comments to this effect by Gen. McChrystal, Secretary of Defense Gates, and CENTCOM commander Gen. David Petraeus. Their comments have coincided with the apparent success 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. A more extensive operation is planned for later in 2010 in the major province of Qandahar. 

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: March 25, 2010
Number of Pages: 94
Order Number: RL30588
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