Katzman Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs
United States and its partner countries are gradually reducing their military
involvement in Afghanistan as they prepare the Afghan government and
security forces to assume full responsibility at the end of 2014. To
secure longer term U.S. gains, on May 1, 2012, President Obama signed a
Strategic Partnership Agreement that will likely keep some (perhaps 10,000– 15,000)
U.S. troops in Afghanistan after 2014 as advisors and trainers. Until then, the
United States and its partners will be transferring overall security
responsibility to Afghan security forces, with Afghan forces to assume
much of the security lead nationwide by mid-2013. The number of U.S.
forces in Afghanistan, which peaked at about 100,000 in June 2011, has been reduced
to the “pre-surge” level of 68,000 as of September 20, 2012 and will continue
to draw down as the transition proceeds. However, the transition has been
hampered somewhat by a pattern of attacks by Afghan forces on their
coalition mentors and trainers, as well as large scale turnover in the
Afghan force. In keeping with the Strategic Partnership Agreement, on July 7, 2012
(one day in advance of a major donors’ conference on Afghanistan in Tokyo), the
United States named Afghanistan a “Major Non-NATO Ally,” further assuring
Afghanistan of long-term U.S. support.
The Administration view is that, no matter the U.S. and allied drawdown
schedule, Afghan stability after the 2014 transition is at risk from weak
and corrupt Afghan governance and insurgent safe haven in Pakistan. Among
other efforts to promote effective and transparent Afghan governance, U.S.
officials are pushing for substantial election reform to ensure that the next
presidential election, scheduled for early 2014, will be not experience the
fraud of the elections in 2009 and 2010. Afghan anti-corruption
institutions have been established since 2008 but, thus far, have lacked
There is also increased U.S. and Afghan emphasis on negotiating a settlement to
the conflict. That process has proceeded sporadically since early 2010,
and has not, by all accounts, advanced to a discussion of specific
proposals to settle the conflict. 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 power-sharing.
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 or are beginning. U.S. officials also see
greater Afghanistan integration into regional trade and investment
patterns—referred to as the New Silk Road (NSR). Persuading Afghanistan’s
neighbors to support Afghanistan’s stability instead of their own
particular interests has been a focus of U.S. policy since 2009, but with mixed
Even if these economic efforts succeed, Afghanistan will likely remain
dependent on foreign aid indefinitely. Through the end of FY2012, the
United States has provided nearly $83 billion in assistance to Afghanistan
since the fall of the Taliban, of which about $51 billion has been to equip
and train Afghan forces. During FY2001-FY2012, the Afghan intervention has cost
about $557 billion, including all costs. About $9.7 billion in economic
aid and $82 billion in additional U.S. military costs are requested for
FY2013. As announced in the context of the July 8, 2012, Tokyo donors’
conference, U.S. economic aid requests are likely to continue at current levels through
at least FY2017, according to the Administration. See CRS Report RS21922, Afghanistan:
Politics, Elections, and Government Performance, by Kenneth Katzman.
Date of Report: October 31, 2012
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