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Monday, August 29, 2011

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

Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

Stated U.S. policy is to ensure that Afghanistan will not again become a base for terrorist attacks against the United States. Following policy reviews in 2009, the Obama Administration asserted that it was pursuing a well-resourced and integrated military-civilian strategy intended to pave the way for a gradual transition to Afghan leadership that will begin in July 2011 and be completed by the end of 2014. To carry out U.S. policy, a total of 51,000 additional U.S. forces were authorized by the two 2009 reviews, bringing U.S. troop numbers to a high of about 99,000, with partner forces adding about 42,000. On June 22, 2011, President Obama announced that the policy had accomplished most major U.S. goals and that a drawdown of 33,000 U.S. troops would take place by September 2012. The first 10,000 of these are to be withdrawn by the end of 2011 in concert with the July 2011 start of a long-planned transition to Afghan security leadership. That transition has begun in the first wave of areas, four cities and three full provinces, and some U.S. troops have been withdrawn. Amid widespread doubts that Afghan governance and security institutions will be strong enough to protect themselves by the end of 2014, U.S. and Afghan officials are negotiating a “strategic partnership” that would guide the long term relationship, although differences over U.S. latitude to conduct operations is slowing completion. The start of the transition coincides with the turnover of the top U.S. and NATO command from General Petraeus to Lt. Gen. John Allen on July 18, and the arrival of Ryan Crocker as Ambassador to Afghanistan on July 25.

The death of Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden in a U.S. raid on May 1, 2011, has caused some to argue that overarching U.S. goals will not be jeopardized by the drawdown. However, Al Qaeda has had a minimal presence on the Afghanistan battlefield itself since 2001, and the official U.S. military view is that security gains achieved against mostly Taliban and affiliated Afghan insurgent groups in 2010 remain “fragile and reversible.” Some believe that a negotiated settlement to the Afghanistan conflict has become more likely in the aftermath of bin Laden’s death, and some preliminary talks with Taliban figures, led by the State Department, have begun. There are major concerns among Afghanistan’s minorities and among its women that reconciliation might produce compromises that erode the freedoms enjoyed since 2001. Some strategists doubt that Afghanistan can be rendered permanently stable unless Afghan militants are denied safe haven in Pakistan. Others believe that all of Afghanistan’s neighbors, including Iran, should cease using Afghanistan to promote their own interests and instead help Afghanistan reemerge as a major regional trade route.

Others believe that the crucial variable is the quality and extent of Afghan governance. In particular, President Hamid Karzai’s failure to forcefully confront governmental corruption has caused a loss of Afghan support for his government. However, the Administration view is that governance is expanding and improving slowly. U.S. officials also hope to draw on Afghanistan’s vast mineral resources to promote long term growth—several major mining, agricultural, and even energy development programs, mostly funded by private investment have begun in the past few years, with more in various stages of consideration.

Much of the development to date has been accomplished with foreign, particularly U.S., help, although donor aid is likely to decline as the transition proceeds. Through the end of FY2011, the United States has provided over $67 billion in assistance to Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban, of which about $30 billion has been to equip and train Afghan forces. During FY2001- FY2011, the Afghan intervention has cost about $443 billion, including all costs. For FY2012, about $17 billion in aid (including train and equip) is requested, in addition to about $100 billion for U.S. military operations there. (See CRS Report RS21922, Afghanistan: Politics, Elections, and Government Performance, by Kenneth Katzman.)

Date of Report: August 22, 2011
Number of Pages: 100
Order Number: RL30588
Price: $29.95

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