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Friday, February 22, 2013

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 military involvement in Afghanistan as the end of the formal international security mission approaches by the end of 2014. Under an agreement between President Obama and Afghan President Karzai announced January 11, 2013, Afghan forces will assume the security lead nationwide in the spring of 2013 and U.S. forces will move to a support role. 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 66,000 as of September 20, 2012, and a further draw down schedule is to be announced by mid-2013. Subsequently, the size of the U.S. force that will remain in Afghanistan after 2014 will be announced, pursuant to a bilateral security agreement between the United States and Afghanistan that is under negotiation pursuant to a May 1, 2012, U.S.-Afghan Strategic Partnership Agreement. U.S. military recommendations for the post-2014 force reportedly range from 3,000 to 20,000 U.S. forces, likely performing missions that include combat against high-value targets as well as training for the Afghanistan National Security Forces (ANSF). U.S. partners are likely to contribute a still unspecified number of forces for these missions. Still, fearing instability after 2014, some key ethnic and political faction leaders are preparing to revive their militia forces should the international drawdown lead to a major Taliban push to retake power.

The Administration remains concerned that Afghan stability after 2014 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. An unexpected potential benefit to stability could come from a negotiated settlement between the Afghan government and the Taliban and other insurgent groups. Negotiations have proceeded sporadically since early 2010 and a formal negotiation process stalled in early 2012. However, informal discussions have continued and, by the end of 2012, began to evolve into discussions 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 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 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: February 8, 2013
Number of Pages: 92
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