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Thursday, May 10, 2012

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

Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

The Obama Administration and several of its partner countries are seeking to reduce U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan without jeopardizing existing gains. In a May 1, 2012, visit to Afghanistan, President Obama said the United States and its partners are within reach of the fundamental goal of defeating Al Qaeda, and he signed a strategic partnership agreement that will keep small amounts of U.S. troops in Afghanistan after 2014 as advisors and trainers. During 2011-2014, the United States and its partners are gradually transferring overall security responsibility to Afghan security forces. U.S. forces, which peaked at about 99,000 in June 2011, are being reduced to about 68,000 by September 2012, and President Obama said that “reductions will continue at a steady pace” from then until the completion of the transition to Afghan lead at the end of 2014. A key to the transition is to place Afghan forces in the security lead, with U.S. military involvement changing from combat to a training and advising, by mid-2013.

The Administration view is that, no matter the U.S. and allied drawdown schedule, security gains could be at risk from weak Afghan governance and insurgent safe haven in Pakistan. This latter factor is widely noted as a potential threat to Afghan stability well after the 2014 transition. Afghan governance is perceived as particularly weak and corrupt, despite the holding of regular elections since 2004 and the establishment of several overlapping anti-corruption institutions.

As the transition proceeds, there is increasing emphasis on negotiating a settlement to the conflict. That process has proceeded sporadically since 2010, and has not, by all accounts, advanced to a discussion of specific proposals to settle the conflict, although there have been discussions of a ceasefire. Afghanistan’s minorities and women’s groups worry about a potential settlement, fearing it might produce compromises with the Taliban that erode human rights and ethnic powersharing.

To promote long-term growth and prevent a severe economic downturn as international donors scale back their involvement in Afghanistan, U.S. officials also hope to draw on Afghanistan’s vast mineral and agricultural resources. Several major privately funded mining, agricultural, and even energy development programs have begun in the past few years, with more in various stages of consideration. U.S. officials also look to greater Afghanistan integration into regional trade and investment patterns—as part of a “New Silk Road (NSR)” economic strategy—to help compensate for the anticipated reduction in foreign economic involvement in Afghanistan. Even if these economic efforts succeed, Afghanistan will likely remain dependent on foreign aid indefinitely. 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 $39 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 $16 billion in aid (including train and equip) is to be provided, in addition to about $90 billion for U.S. military operations there, and $9.2 billion in aid is requested for FY2013. In apparent recognition that Afghanistan will remain dependent on foreign aid for at least a decade after the 2014 transition, the strategic partnership agreement signed May 1 provides for Administration efforts to provide unspecified amounts of aid to Afghanistan until 2024. See CRS Report RS21922, Afghanistan: Politics, Elections, and Government Performance, by Kenneth Katzman.

Date of Report: May 3, 2012
Number of Pages: 93
Order Number: RL30588
Price: $29.95

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