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Friday, April 19, 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 reducing military involvement in Afghanistan in preparation to end the current international security mission by the end of 2014. As agreed by President Obama and Afghan President Karzai, and announced January 11, 2013, Afghan forces will assume the security lead nationwide during 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, was reduced to a “pre-surge” level of about 68,000 as of September 20, 2012. An additional 34,000 will leave by February 2014, but the bulk of that drawdown will take place in late 2013- early 2014. The size of the U.S. force that will remain in Afghanistan after 2014 is to be announced in mid-2013, but options center on about 8,000-12,000 U.S. forces, plus about half as many partner forces. U.S. troops that remain after 2014 would do so under a U.S.-Afghanistan security agreement that is under negotiation pursuant to a May 1, 2012, U.S.-Afghan Strategic Partnership Agreement. They will train the Afghanistan National Security Forces (ANSF) but some will engage in counter-terrorism combat as well. 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 5, 2014, will be devoid of the fraud that plagued Afghanistan’s 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, but informal discussions have continued and some talks have evolved into exchanges of specific proposals. Afghanistan’s minorities and women’s groups fear that a settlement might produce compromises with the Taliban that erode human rights and ethnic power-sharing.

The United States and other donors continue to implement various infrastructure projects— particularly those for water, power, and roads. To prevent a severe economic downturn as international donors scale back their involvement, U.S. officials hope that Afghanistan will be able to exploit vast mineral and agricultural resources, as well as its potentially significant hydrocarbon resources. U.S. officials also seek greater Afghan 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: April 9, 2013
Number of Pages: 91
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