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Thursday, October 28, 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 well resourced and integrated military-civilian strategy intended to pave the way for a gradual transition to Afghan security leadership beginning in July 2011. The pace of that transition is to be determined by conditions on the ground, as determined, in large part, by a formal DOD-led review of the Afghanistan situation in December 2010. The policy is intended to ensure that Afghanistan will not again become a base for terrorist attacks against the United States. In order to reverse security deterioration in large parts of Afghanistan since 2006, each of the two reviews resulted in a decision to add combat troops, with the intent to create security conditions to expand Afghan governance and economic development. A total of 51,000 additional U.S. forces were authorized by the two reviews, which has brought U.S. troop levels to about 104,000 as of September 4, 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.

Until October 2010, there had not been a consensus that U.S. strategy has shown clear success, to date. However, in October 2010, the top U.S./NATO commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus, as well as other U.S. and partner military officials say that signs are multiplying that insurgent momentum has been broadly blunted. One particular sign is that insurgent commanders are exploring possible surrender terms under which they might reintegrate into society. Still, some experts remain pessimistic, asserting that the insurgents have expanded their presence in northern Afghanistan, and that President Hamid Karzai’s refusal to forcefully confront governmental corruption has caused a loss of Afghan support for his government. U.S. officials are reinforcing the U.S. insistence that Karzai move more decisively against governmental corruption, but reportedly will focus on lower level corruption such as police and governmental demands for bribes. In September 2010, Gen. Petraeus issued new contracting guidance intended to try to reduce corrupt uses of DoD funds spent in Afghanistan. Another U.S. concern is that several partner countries have or are soon to pull their forces out of Afghanistan. A November 19, 2010, NATO summit meeting in Lisbon is to map out a “transition” to Afghan lead on security by 2014, which many experts consider too ambitious a timetable.

In order to try to achieve a strategic breakthrough that might force key insurgent leaders to negotiate a political settlement, Gen. Petraeus is attempting to accelerate local security solutions and experiments similar to those he pursued earlier in Iraq, and to step up the use of air strikes and special forces operations against key Taliban commanders. In order to take advantage of an apparent new willingness by some insurgent commanders to negotiate, Karzai has named a broadbased 68-member High Peace Council to oversee negotiations. However, there are major concerns among Afghanistan’s minorities and among its women that reconciliation could lead to compromises that erode the freedoms Afghans have enjoyed since 2001.

Through the end of FY2010, the United States has provided over $54.5 billion in assistance to Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban, of which about $30 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: October 19, 2010
Number of Pages: 99
Order Number: RL30588
Price: $29.95

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