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Afghanistan: post-Taliban governance, security, and U.S. policy.

June 7, 2010


Following two high-level policy reviews on Afghanistan in 2009, the Obama Administration says it is pursuing a fully resourced and more unified military-civilian strategy that will pave the way for a gradual transition to Afghan security leadership beginning in July 2011. The policy is intended to address what the Obama Administration considered to be a security environment that was deteriorating despite a gradual increase in U.S. forces there during 2006-2008. Each of the two reviews resulted in a decision to add combat troops, with the intent of creating the conditions to expand Afghan governance and economic development, rather than on hunting and defeating insurgents. A total of 51,000 additional U.S. forces were authorized by the two reviews, which will bring U.S. troop levels to approximately 100,000 by September 2010. Currently, U.S. troops in Afghanistan total about 94,000 and foreign partners are about 40,000.

As U.S. strategy unfolds, a greater sense of U.S. official optimism has started to take hold, with comments to this effect by senior U.S. defense officials, including Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who has been top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan since June 2009. The broader optimism has coincided with the partial success of "Operation Moshtarak" to stabilize Marjah, and successful arrests of and strikes on key Afghan militants in Pakistan. A more extensive operation--although characterized more by political engagement than actual combat--is planned for June 2010 in the major province of Qandahar.

The credibility of the Afghan government is crucial to U.S. strategy, To improve the U.S.-Afghan partnership, U.S. diplomats are adjusting their approach to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who was weakened by 2009-early 2010 U.S. criticism of his failure to curb corruption and by the extensive fraud in the August 20, 2009, presidential elections. He was declared the winner but subsequently had difficulty obtaining parliamentary confirmation of a new cabinet. His domestic difficulties and strains between him and some in the Obama Administration nearly led to a revocation of President Obama's invitation for Karzai to visit the United States May 10-14, 2010, (an invitation issued during President Obama's visit to Afghanistan on March 28, 2010). The visit--the product of a U.S. decision that public criticism of Karzai was counterproductive--was widely assessed as highly fruitful and resulted in a decision to renew a 2005 U.S.-Afghan long-term partnership accord.

A major issue--and the focus of the Karzai visit to Washington DC, and an international meeting on Afghanistan held in London on January 28, 2010--has been the effort to persuade insurgent fighters and leaders to end their fight and join the political process. There is broad international support for Karzai's plan to reintegrate insurgent foot soldiers but not for his vision of reconciling with high-level insurgent figures, potentially including Taliban leader Mullah Umar. Karzai nonetheless received backing for these initiatives at a "consultative peace jirga" that convened in Kabul during June 2-4, 2010.

Including FY2009, the United States has provided over $40 billion in assistance to Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban, of which about $21 billion has been to equip and train Afghan forces. (See CRS Report RS21922, Afghanistan: Politics, Elections, and Government Performance, by Kenneth Katzman.)
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Author:Katzman, Kenneth
Publication:Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports and Issue Briefs
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:9AFGH
Date:Jun 1, 2010
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