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Friday, July 30, 2010

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

Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

Following two high-level policy reviews on Afghanistan in 2009, the Obama Administration asserts that it is pursuing a fully resourced and integrated military-civilian strategy that will pave the way for a gradual transition to Afghan security leadership beginning in July 2011. The policy is predicated on the view that stabilizing Afghanistan will ensure that it cannot again become a base for terrorist attacks against the United States, and that accomplishing this objective requires reversing a deterioration of security in large parts of Afghanistan since 2006. Each of the two reviews 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 defeating insurgents. A total of 51,000 additional U.S. forces were authorized by the two reviews, which will bring U.S. troop levels to approximately 104,000 by September 2010. Currently, U.S. troops in Afghanistan total about 95,000 and foreign partners are about 40,000.

There is not a consensus that U.S. strategy has shown clear success, to date, although senior U.S. officials say that only now is the full effect of the U.S. and partner "surge" being achieved. These comments have been intended to address a growing sense that the U.S. effort may be faltering. That perception has been fed by the failure to fully stabilize Marjah; Afghan reluctance to allow combat to better secure Qandahar Province; President Hamid Karzai's dismissal on June 5 of two top security-related officials on whom the international alliance has placed confidence; and the growing reluctance of partner countries to keep combat forces in Afghanistan. The overall mission was further disrupted by the sudden ousting on June 23 of the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, for disparaging public comments by him and his staff about U.S. civilian leaders of Afghanistan policy. He has been replaced by CENTCOM Commander David Petraeus, whose leading reputation has calmed Afghan and partner country fears of turmoil surrounding the McChrystal dismissal. Gen. Petraeus has expressed support for accelerating local security solutions and experiments similar to those he pursued earlier in Iraq.

Gen. Petraeus is also expected to continue and even emphasize the ongoing Afghan effort to persuade insurgent fighters to surrender and rejoin Afghan society. Karzai received backing for these initiatives at an international conference in London on January 28, 2010, during his May 2010 meetings in Washington, D.C., which was assessed as highly fruitful and resulted in a decision to renew a 2005 U.S.-Afghan long-term partnership accord. Reintegration was the primary focus of a "consultative peace jirga" that convened in Kabul during June 2-4, 2010. The issue—along with the many other issues of concern to the international community such as governance, corruption, and transition to Afghan security responsibility—was discussed at the July 20, 2010, international meeting in Kabul, a follow-up to the January 2010 London conference.

The credibility of the Afghan government is considered crucial to U.S. strategy. To improve Afghan performance, U.S. diplomats are adjusting their approach to President Karzai, who recoiled in early 2010 from U.S. criticism of his failure to curb corruption and of the extensive fraud in the August 20, 2009, presidential elections. Although U.S. officials have muted their public criticism, some in Congress have proposed tying some U.S. aid to Afghanistan to progress on this issue.

Through the end of 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. (See CRS Report RS21922, Afghanistan: Politics, Elections, and Government Performance, by Kenneth Katzman.)

Date of Report: July 21, 2010
Number of Pages: 102
Order Number: RL30588
Price: $29.95

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