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Thursday, February 3, 2011

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, and another completed in December 2010, 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 leadership. The transition is to begin in July 2011 and be completed by the end of 2014, although U.S. officials say that the U.S. intent is for a long term relationship with Afghanistan that might include U.S. military involvement long after 2014. The policy is intended to ensure that Afghanistan will not again become a base for terrorist attacks against the United States.

At the same time, there appears to be a debate within the Administration and between the United States and Pakistan over whether the war effort should be widened somewhat to include stepped up attacks on Afghan militants inside Pakistan. That debate raises the question of the degree to which Pakistan envisions Afghanistan as part of its strategy to avoid encirclement by or pressure from Pakistan’s historic rival, India. At the same time, Afghanistan is achieving ever higher degrees of economic and political integration with its neighbors in Central Asia and the Middle East.

The December 2010 review took into account the effect of the addition of U.S. combat troops to Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010. A total of 51,000 additional U.S. forces were authorized by the two reviews, which has brought U.S. troop numbers to their current level of 98,000 as of September 4, 2010, with partner forces adding about 41,000. As stated in the overview of the Administration review, released December 16, 2010, the top U.S./NATO commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, and his associates believe that insurgent momentum has been blunted, although gains remain “fragile and reversible.” One positive sign is that insurgent commanders are exploring terms under which they might reintegrate into society. Still, U.N. assessments and some outside experts remain pessimistic, asserting that the insurgents have expanded their presence in northern Afghanistan, and that the Afghan government is too lacking in capacity or effectiveness to be able to solidify coalition security gains. In order to try to achieve a strategic breakthrough that might force key insurgent leaders to negotiate a early political settlement, General 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 Taliban commanders. 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.

Many assess that President Hamid Karzai’s refusal to forcefully confront governmental corruption has caused a loss of Afghan support for his government, while others note that strong economic growth and economic development provide additional cause for optimism. Several major mining, agricultural export, and even energy development programs, mostly funded by private investment rather than international aid donors, have gotten under way in the past few years, with more in various stages of consideration or contract award.

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: January 26, 2011
Number of Pages: 96
Order Number: RL30588
Price: $29.95

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