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Friday, December 21, 2012

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

Kenneth Katzman
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs

The 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– 12,000) U.S. troops in Afghanistan after 2014 mostly 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 a “pre-surge” level of 68,000 as of September 20, 2012, and will likely continue to draw down as the transition proceeds, although no decision has been made on the rate of that drawdown. However, the transition has been hampered by a pattern of attacks by Afghan forces on their coalition mentors and trainers, insurgent resiliency, and 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 April 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 effectiveness.

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 seek greater Afghanistan integration into regional trade and investment patterns. 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 success.

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, Administration economic aid requests for Afghanistan are likely to continue at current levels through at least FY2017. See CRS Report RS21922, Afghanistan: Politics, Elections, and Government Performance, by Kenneth Katzman.

Date of Report: December 5, 2012
Number of Pages: 93
Order Number: RL30588
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