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Tuesday, August 20, 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 as Afghan security forces assume lead security responsibility throughout the country. The current international security mission will terminate at the end of 2014 and likely transition to a far smaller mission consisting mostly of training and mentoring the Afghanistan National Security Forces (ANSF). 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 66,000 as of September 20, 2012, and has been reduced further to about 63,000. U.S. force levels are to fall to 34,000 by February 2014, with the bulk of that drawdown to take place in the winter of 2013-2014. The size of the international force that will remain in Afghanistan after 2014 is to be announced later in 2013, with options centering on about 8,000-12,000 trainers plus an unspecified number of counterterrorism forces. The majority of the total post-2014 international force would be from the United States. The U.S. troops that remain after 2014 would do so under a U.S.-Afghanistan security agreement that is under negotiation. 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 havens in Pakistan. Among 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, sometimes including exchanges of specific proposals. Formal discussions were expected to begin after the Taliban opened a political office in Qatar on June 18, 2013, but the office closed after Afghan recriminations over the Taliban’s efforts to promote the office as the headquarters of a Taliban government-in-exile. 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 fund development projects while increasingly delegating project implementation to the Afghan government. To prevent a severe economic downturn as international donors scale back their involvement, U.S. officials assert that Afghanistan might 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 as part of a “New Silk Road.” Persuading Afghanistan’s neighbors, particularly Pakistan, to support Afghanistan’s stability instead of their own interests has been a focus of U.S. policy since 2009, but has had limited 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. About $9.7 billion in aid, including ANSF training, is being provided in FY2013 and the aid request for FY2014 is over $10 billion, including $7.7 billion to train and equip the ANSF. Administration officials have said that 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: August 8, 2013
Number of Pages: 90
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