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Wednesday, September 8, 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 should 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. 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, with partner forces holding at about 40,000. At the same time, the Administration is attempting to counter the perception in the region, particularly among Pakistan, India, the Afghan insurgency, and within the Afghan political establishment that U.S. involvement will be sharply reduced after July 2011. That perception may, among other consequences, be inflaming the traditional rivalry between Pakistan and India, in this case to deny each other influence in Afghanistan. 

As the effort approaches a formal DOD-led review of the Afghanistan situation in December 2010, there is not a consensus that U.S. strategy has shown clear success, to date. Senior U.S. officials say that only now is the full effect of the U.S. and partner "surge" being achieved, and that some progress is being achieved. These comments have been intended to address a growing sense that the U.S. effort may be faltering and, possibly, to halt the growth of opinion that the effort should be abandoned or scaled back. This body of opinion has been fed by the failure to fully stabilize Marjah; Afghan reluctance to allow combat to better secure Qandahar Province; President Hamid Karzai's limited success in curbing governmental corruption, and the expression by several partner countries that the "transition" to Afghan responsibility be accelerated. The overall mission was also 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 quickly calmed Afghan and partner country fears of turmoil surrounding the McChrystal dismissal. 

Gen. Petraeus is expressing support for accelerating local security solutions and experiments similar to those he pursued earlier in Iraq, and for efforts to induce low level insurgents to reintegrate into society. Karzai received backing for the reintegration initiative at an international conference in London on January 28, 2010, during his May 2010 meetings in Washington, DC, at "consultative peace jirga" in Kabul during June 2-4, 2010, and at a July 20, 2010, international meeting in Kabul. However, there are major concerns among Afghanistan's minorities and among its women that reintegration—and more controversially Karzai's willingness to reconcile with senior insurgent leaders—could lead to compromises that erode the freedoms Afghans have enjoyed since 2001. Gen. Petraeus, taking account of criticisms of the Afghan government in Congress, also is reportedly reinforcing the U.S. insistence that Karzai move more decisively against governmental corruption. 

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: August 17, 2010
Number of Pages: 105
Order Number: RL30588
Price: $29.95

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