Afghanistan: post-Taliban governance, security, and U.S. policy.
Afghan security forces have lead security responsibility throughout the country, and the United States and its partner countries are in the process of winding down the current international security mission by the end of 2014. A planned post-2014 mission will consist mostly of training 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 34,000 as of February 2014. President Obama announced in late May 2014 that the post-2014 mission will include 9,800 U.S. forces, shrinking by the end of 2015 to 4,900 mostly in Kabul and at Bagram Airfield. The force will shrink to a small force of several hundred after 2016, engaged mostly in handling military sales to Afghanistan.
The post-2014 force is contingent on Afghanistan's signing a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the United States. All the candidates in the April 5, 2014, presidential election publicly support the agreement, including Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, who garnered enough votes to proceed to a runoff on June 14. Preliminary runoff results released on July 7 showed Ghani ahead by 56% to 44%, but Afghan and international officials have acknowledged there was substantial fraud and Dr. Abdullah has said he will not recognize a Ghani victory under existing vote certification processes. U.S. officials are attempting to broker a resolution process that would involve auditing votes from a substantial number of polling stations. The dispute has clouded prospects for a peaceful transfer of power to a new president by the August 2 planned date and the signing of a U.S.--Afghanistan Bilateral Security Agreement that is required to keep U.S. forces in Afghanistan after 2014.
Even if the election dispute is resolved, experts remain concerned that Afghan stability is at risk from weak and corrupt Afghan governance and insurgent safe havens in Pakistan. U.S. and partner country anti-corruption efforts in Afghanistan have yielded few concrete results. An unexpected potential benefit to stability could come from a negotiated settlement between the Afghan government and the Taliban and other insurgent groups. Negotiations were sporadic, but in May 2014 produced an exchange of prisoners that included the return of U.S. prisoner of war Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. 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, but increasingly delegate implementation to the Afghan government. U.S. officials assert that Afghanistan might be able to exploit vast mineral and agricultural resources to prevent a major economic downturn as international donors scale back their involvement. 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 has shown some modest success.
Despite economic development initiatives, Afghanistan will remain dependent on foreign aid for many years. Through the end of FY2013, the United States provided nearly $93 billion in assistance to Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban, of which more than $56 billion has been to equip and train Afghan forces. The appropriated U.S. aid for FY2014 is over $6.1 billion, including $4.7 billion to train and equip the ANSF, and the total FY2015 request is about $4.5 billion. These figures do not include funds for U.S. military operations in Afghanistan. Administration officials have pledged to Afghanistan that economic aid requests for Afghanistan are likely to continue roughly at recent levels through at least FY2017. See CRS Report RS21922, Afghanistan: Politics, Elections, and Government Performance, by Kenneth Katzman.
Contents Background From Early History to the 19th Century Early 20th Century and Cold War Era Soviet Invasion and Occupation Period The Seven Major "Mujahedin" Parties and Their Activities Geneva Accords (1988) and Soviet Withdrawal The Mujahedin Government and Rise of the Taliban Taliban Rule (September 1996-November 2001) U.S. Policy Toward the Taliban During Its Rule/Bin Laden Presence The "Northern Alliance" Congeals Policy Pre-September 11, 2001 September 11 Attacks and Operation Enduring Freedom U.N. and Congressional Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) Major Combat Operations Post-Taliban Governance Established U.S. and International Civilian Policy Structure Security Policy: Transition, and Beyond Who Is "The Enemy"? Taliban, Haqqani, Al Qaeda, and Others Groups: The Taliban/"Quetta Shura Taliban"(QST) Al Qaeda/Bin Laden Hikmatyar Faction (HIG) Haqqani Faction Pakistani Groups Insurgent Tactics Insurgent Financing: Narcotics Trafficking and Other Methods The U.S.-Led Military Effort: 2001-2008 Obama Administration Policy: "Surge" and Transition McChrystal Assessment and December 1, 2009, Surge Announcement Transition and Drawdown: Afghans in the Lead Afghan Forces Assume Lead Operational Role in June 2013 Post-2014 Residual Force and 2016 Exit Debate Over Post-2014 Security Outcomes Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) Transition Pillar: Building Afghan Forces and Establishing Rule of Law Current and Post-2014 Size of the ANSF ANSF Top Leadership/Ethnic and Factional Considerations ANSF Funding The Afghan National Army (ANA) Afghan Air Force Afghan National Police (ANP) Rule of Law/Criminal Justice Sector Policy Component: Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) Cooperation With Allies Reintegration and Potential Reconciliation With Insurgents Regional Dimension Pakistan U.S.-Pakistani Cooperation on Afghanistan Iran Bilateral Government-to-Government Relations Iranian Assistance to Afghan Militants and to Pro-Iranian Groups and Regions Assistance to Ethnic and Religious Factions in Afghanistan Iran's Development Aid for Afghanistan India India's Development Activities in Afghanistan Russia, Central Asian States, and China Russia/Northern Distribution Network Central Asian States China Persian Gulf States Saudi Arabia UAE Qatar Aid and Economic Development U.S. Assistance to Afghanistan Aid Oversight and Conditionality Aid Authorization: Afghanistan Freedom Support Act Direct Support to the Afghan Government Other Donor Aid Development in Key Sectors Education Health Roads Bridges Railways Electricity Agriculture Telecommunications Airlines Mining and Gems Oil, Gas, and Related Pipelines Trade Promotion/Reconstruction Opportunity Zones Residual Issues from Past Conflicts Stinger Retrieval Mine Eradication Figures Figure A-1. Map of Afghanistan Figure A-2. Map of Afghan Ethnicities Tables Table 1. Afghanistan Political Transition Process Table 2. U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) Table 3. Summary of Current U.S. Strategy and Implementation Table 4. Background on NATO/ISAF Formation and U.N. Mandate Table 5. Major Security-Related Indicators Table 6. Afghan and Regional Facilities Used for Operations in and Supply Lines to Afghanistan Table 7. Major Reporting Requirements Table 8. Comparative Social and Economic Statistics Table 9. Major Non-U.S. Pledges for Afghanistan 2002-2012 Table 10. U.S. Assistance to Afghanistan, FY1978-FY1998 Table 11. U.S. Assistance to Afghanistan, FY1999-FY2001 Table 12. Post-Taliban U.S. Assistance to Afghanistan Table 13. Total Obligations for Major Programs: FY2001-FY2011 Table 14. NATO/ISAF Contributing Nations Table 15. Provincial Reconstruction Teams Table 16. Major Factions/Leaders in Afghanistan Appendixes Appendix. U.S. and International Sanctions Lifted Contacts Author Contact Information
Afghanistan has a history of a high degree of decentralization, and resistance to foreign invasion and occupation. Some have termed it the "graveyard of empires."
From Early History to the 19th Century
Alexander the Great conquered what is now Afghanistan in three years (330 B.C.E. to 327 B.C.E), although at significant cost and with significant difficulty, and requiring, among other steps, marriage to a resident of the conquered territory. For example, he was unable to fully pacify Bactria, an ancient region spanning what is now northern Afghanistan and parts of the neighboring Central Asian states. (A collection of valuable Bactrian gold was hidden from the Taliban when it was in power and emerged from the Taliban period unscathed.) From the third to the eighth century, A.D., Buddhism was the dominant religion in Afghanistan. At the end of the seventh century, Islam spread in Afghanistan when Arab invaders from the Umayyad Dynasty defeated the Persian empire of the Sassanians. In the 10th century, Muslim rulers called Samanids, from Bukhara (in what is now Uzbekistan), extended their influence into Afghanistan, and the complete conversion of Afghanistan to Islam occurred during the rule of the Gaznavids in the 11th century. They ruled over a vast empire based in what is now Ghazni province of Afghanistan.
In 1504, Babur, a descendent of the conquerors Tamarlane and Genghis Khan, took control of Kabul and then moved on to India, establishing the Mughal Empire. (Babur is buried in the Babur Gardens complex in Kabul, which has been refurbished with the help of the Agha Khan Foundation.) Throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, Afghanistan was fought over by the Mughal Empire and the Safavid Dynasty of Persia (now Iran), with the Safavids mostly controlling Herat and western Afghanistan, and the Mughals controlling Kabul and the east. A monarchy ruled by ethnic Pashtuns was founded in 1747 by Ahmad Shah Durrani. He was a senior officer in the army of Nadir Shah, ruler of Persia, when Nadir Shah was assassinated and Persian control over Afghanistan weakened.
A strong ruler, Dost Muhammad Khan, emerged in Kabul in 1826 and created concerns among Britain that the Afghans were threatening Britain's control of India; that fear led to a British decision in 1838 to intervene in Afghanistan, setting off the first Anglo-Afghan War (1838-1842). Nearly all of the 4,500-person British force was killed in that war. The second Anglo-Afghan War took place during 1878-1880.
Early 20th Century and Cold War Era
King Amanullah Khan (1919-1929) launched attacks on British forces in Afghanistan (Third Anglo-Afghan War) shortly after taking power and won complete independence from Britain as recognized in the Treaty of Rawalpindi (August 8, 1919). He was considered a secular modernizer presiding over a government in which all ethnic minorities participated. He was succeeded by King Mohammad Nadir Shah (1929-1933), and then by King Mohammad Zahir Shah. Zahir Shah's reign (1933-1973) is remembered fondly by many older Afghans for promulgating a constitution in 1964 that established a national legislature and promoting freedoms for women, including dropping a requirement that they cover their face and hair. In part, the countryside was secured during the King's time by local tribal militias called arbokai. However, possibly believing that he could limit Soviet support for Communist factions in Afghanistan, Zahir Shah also built ties to the Soviet government by entering into a significant political and arms purchase relationship with the Soviet Union. The Soviets built large infrastructure projects in Afghanistan during Zahir Shah's time, such as the north-south Salang Pass/Tunnel and Bagram airfield.
This period was the height of the Cold War, and the United States sought to prevent Afghanistan from falling into the Soviet orbit. As Vice President, Richard Nixon visited Afghanistan in 1953, and President Eisenhower visited in 1959. President Kennedy hosted King Zahir Shah in 1963. The United States tried to use aid to counter Soviet influence, providing agricultural and other development assistance. Among the major U.S.-funded projects were large USAID-led irrigation and hydroelectric dam efforts in Helmand Province, including Kajaki Dam (see below).
Afghanistan's slide into instability began in the 1970s, during the Nixon Administration, when the diametrically opposed Communist Party and Islamic movements grew in strength. While receiving medical treatment in Italy, Zahir Shah was overthrown by his cousin, Mohammad Daoud, a military leader who established a dictatorship with strong state involvement in the economy. Daoud was overthrown and killed (1) in April 1978, during the Carter Administration, by People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA, Communist party) military officers under the direction of two PDPA (Khalq, or "Masses" faction) leaders, Hafizullah Amin and Nur Mohammad Taraki, in what is called the Saur (April) Revolution. Taraki became president, but he was displaced in September 1979 by Amin. Both leaders drew their strength from rural ethnic Pashtuns and tried to impose radical socialist change on a traditional society, in part by redistributing land and bringing more women into government. The attempt at rapid modernization sparked rebellion by Islamic parties opposed to such moves.
Soviet Invasion and Occupation Period
The Soviet Union sent troops into Afghanistan on December 27, 1979, to prevent further gains by the Islamic militias, known as the mujahedin (Islamic fighters). Upon their invasion, the Soviets replaced Amin with another PDPA leader perceived as pliable, Babrak Karmal, who led the Parcham ("Banner") faction of the PDPA. Kamal was part of the 1978 PDPA takeover but hd been exiled by Taraki and Amin.
Soviet occupation forces numbered about 120,000. They were assisted by Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (DRA) military forces of about 25,000-40,000, supplemented by about 20,000 paramilitary and tribal militia forces, including the PDPA-dominated organization called the Sarandoy. The combined Soviet and Afghan forces were never able to pacify the outlying areas of the country. DRA forces were consistently plagued by desertions and its effectiveness on behalf of the Soviets was limited. The mujahedin benefited from U.S. weapons and assistance, provided through the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in cooperation with Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence directorate (ISI).
The Seven Major "Mujahedin" Parties and Their Activities
The mujahedin were also relatively well organized and coordinated by seven major parties that in early 1989 formed what they claimed was a government-in-exile--a Peshawar-based "Afghan Interim Government" (AIG). The seven party leaders and their parties--sometimes referred to as the "Peshawar 7"--were Mohammad Nabi Mohammadi (Islamic Revolutionary Movement of Afghanistan); Sibghatullah Mojaddedi (Afghan National Liberation Front); Gulbuddin Hikmatyar (Hezb-i-Islam--Gulbuddin, Islamic Party of Gulbuddin, HIG); Burhanuddin Rabbani (Jamiat-Islami/Islamic Society); Yunus Khalis (Hezb-i-Islam); Abd-i-Rab Rasul Sayyaf (Ittihad Islami/Islamic Union for the Liberation of Afghanistan); and Pir Gaylani (National Islamic Front of Afghanistan, NIFA). Mohammadi and Khalis died of natural causes in 2002 and 2006, respectively, and Rabbani was killed in a September 20, 2011, assassination. The others are still active in Afghan politics and governance or, in the case of Hikmatyar, fighting the Afghan government. Sayyaf, who is politically close to Saudi Arabia, is a parliamentarian.
The mujahedin weaponry included U.S.-supplied portable shoulder-fired anti-aircraft systems called "Stingers," which proved highly effective against Soviet aircraft. The United States decided in 1985 to provide these weapons to the mujahedin after substantial debate within the Reagan Administration and some in Congress over whether they could be used effectively and whether doing so would harm broader U.S.-Soviet relations. The mujahedin also hid and stored weaponry in a large network of natural and manmade tunnels and caves throughout Afghanistan. However, some warned that a post-Soviet power structure in Afghanistan could be adverse to U.S. interests because much of the covert aid was being channeled to the Islamist groups including those of Hikmatyar and Sayyaf.
Partly because of the effectiveness of the Stinger in shooting down Soviet helicopters and fixed wing aircraft, the Soviet Union's losses mounted--about 13,400 Soviet soldiers were killed in the war, according to Soviet figures--turning Soviet domestic opinion against the war. In 1986, after the reformist Mikhail Gorbachev became leader, the Soviets replaced Karmal with the director of Afghan intelligence, Najibullah Ahmedzai (known by his first name). Najibullah was a Ghilzai Pashtun, and was from the Parcham faction of the PDPA. Some Afghans say that he governed effectively, for example in his appointment of a prime minister (Sultan Ali Keshtmand and others) to handle administrative duties and distribute power.
Geneva Accords (1988) and Soviet Withdrawal
On April 14, 1988, Gorbachev agreed to a U.N.-brokered accord (the Geneva Accords) requiring it to withdraw. The withdrawal was completed by February 15, 1989, leaving in place the weak Najibullah government. A warming of relations moved the United States and Soviet Union to try for a political settlement to the Afghan conflict, a trend accelerated by the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, which reduced Moscow's capacity for supporting communist regimes in the Third World. On September 13, 1991, Moscow and Washington agreed to a joint cutoff of military aid to the Afghan combatants as of January 1, 1992, which was implemented by all accounts.
The State Department has said that a total of about $3 billion in economic and covert military assistance was provided by the U.S. to the Afghan mujahedin from 1980 until the end of the Soviet occupation in 1989. Press reports say the covert aid program grew from about $20 million per year in FY1980 to about $300 million per year during FY1986-FY1990. (2) The Soviet pullout was viewed as a decisive U.S. "victory." The Soviet pullout caused a reduction in subsequent covert funding and, as indicated in Table 10, U.S. assistance to Afghanistan remained at relatively low levels after the Soviet withdrawal. There was little support for a major U.S.-led effort to rebuild the economy and society of Afghanistan. The United States closed its embassy in Kabul in January 1989, as the Soviet Union was completing its pullout, and it remained so until the fall of the Taliban in 2001.
Despite the Soviet troop withdrawal in 1989, Najibullah still enjoyed Soviet financial and advisory support and Afghan forces beat back the first post-Soviet withdrawal mujahedin offensives--defying expectations that his government would immediately collapse after a Soviet withdrawal. However, military defections continued and his position weakened subsequently, particularly after the Soviets cut off financial and advisory support as of January 1, 1992, under the agreement with the United States discussed above. On March 18, 1992, Najibullah publicly agreed to step down once an interim government was formed. That announcement set off rebellions by Uzbek and Tajik militia commanders in northern Afghanistan--particularly Abdul Rashid Dostam, who joined prominent mujahedin commander Ahmad Shah Masoud of the Islamic Society, a largely Tajik party headed by Burhannudin Rabbani. Masoud had earned a reputation as a brilliant strategist by preventing the Soviets from conquering his power base in the Panjshir Valley north of Kabul. Najibullah fell, and the mujahedin regime began April 18, 1992. (3)
The Mujahedin Government and Rise of the Taliban
The fall of Najibullah exposed the differences among the mujahedin parties. The leader of one of the smaller parties (Afghan National Liberation Front), Islamic scholar Sibghatullah Mojadeddi, was president during April-May 1992. Under an agreement among the major parties, Rabbani became president in June 1992 with agreement that he would serve until December 1994. He refused to step down at that time, saying that political authority would disintegrate without a clear successor. That decision was strongly opposed by other mujahedin leaders, including Gulbuddin Hikmatyar, a Pashtun, and leader of the Islamist conservative Hizb-e-Islam Gulbuddin mujahedin party. Hikmatyar and several allied factions began fighting to dislodge Rabbani. Rabbani reached an agreement for Hikmatyar to serve as Prime Minister, if Hikmatyar would cease the shelling Kabul that had destroyed much of the western part of the city. However, because of Hikmatyar's distrust of Rabbani, he never assumed a working prime ministerial role in Kabul.
In 1993-1994, Afghan Islamic clerics and students, mostly of rural, Pashtun origin, formed the Taliban movement. Many were former mujahedin who had become disillusioned with conflict among mujahedin parties and had moved into Pakistan to study in Islamic seminaries ("madrassas") mainly of the "Deobandi" school of Islam. (4) Some say this interpretation of Islam is similar to the "Wahhabism" that is practiced in Saudi Arabia. Taliban practices were also consonant with conservative Pashtun tribal traditions. The Taliban's leader, Mullah Muhammad Umar, had been a fighter in Khalis's Hezb-i-Islam party during the anti-Soviet war--Khalis' party was generally considered moderate Islamist during the anti-Soviet war, but Khalis and his faction turned against the United States in the mid-1990s. Many of his fighters, such as Mullah Umar, followed Khalis' lead. Umar, a low-ranking Islamic cleric, lost an eye in the anti-Soviet war.
The Taliban viewed the Rabbani government as weak, corrupt, and anti-Pashtun, and the four years of civil war between the mujahedin groups (1992-1996) created popular support for the Taliban as able to deliver stability. With the help of defections, the Taliban peacefully took control of the southern city of Qandahar in November 1994. Upon that capture, Mullah Umar ordered the opening of the Qandahar shrine containing the purported cloak used by the Prophet Mohammad; he reportedly donned the purported cloak briefly in front of hundreds of followers. (5) By February 1995, it was approaching Kabul, after which an 18-month stalemate ensued. In September 1995, the Taliban captured Herat province, bordering Iran, and imprisoned its governor, Ismail Khan, ally of Rabbani and Masoud, who later escaped and took refuge in Iran. In September 1996, Taliban victories near Kabul led to the withdrawal of Rabbani and Masoud to the Panjshir Valley (north of Kabul); the Taliban took control of Kabul on September 27, 1996. Taliban gunmen then entered a U.N. facility in Kabul to seize Najibullah, his brother, and aides, and hanged them.
Taliban Rule (September 1996-November 2001)
The Taliban regime was led by Mullah Muhammad Umar, who held the title of Head of State and "Commander of the Faithful." He remained in the Taliban power base in Qandahar and made no public speeches or appearances, although he did occasionally receive high-level foreign officials. Al Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden relocated from Sudan to Afghanistan, where he had been a recruiter of Arab fighters during the anti-Soviet war, in May 1996. He at first was located in territory in Nangarhar province controlled by Hezb-i-Islam of Yunus Khalis (Mullah Umar's party leader) but then had free reign in Afghanistan as the Taliban captured nearly all the territory in Afghanistan. Umar reportedly forged a political and personal bond with Bin Laden and refused U.S. demands to extradite him. Like Umar, most of the senior figures in the Taliban regime were Ghilzai Pashtuns, which predominate in eastern Afghanistan. They are rivals of the Durrani Pashtuns, who are predominant in the south.
The Taliban lost international and domestic support as it imposed strict adherence to Islamic customs in areas it controlled and employed harsh punishments, including executions. The Taliban authorized its "Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and the Suppression of Vice" to use physical punishments to enforce strict Islamic practices, including bans on television, Western music, and dancing. It prohibited women from attending school or working outside the home, except in health care, and it publicly executed some women for adultery. In what many consider its most extreme action, and which some say was urged by Bin Laden, in March 2001 the Taliban blew up two large Buddha statues carved into hills above Bamiyan city, considering them idols.
U.S. Policy Toward the Taliban During Its Rule/Bin Laden Presence
The Clinton Administration opened talks with the Taliban after it captured Qandahar in 1994, and engaged the movement after it took power. However, the Administration was unable to moderate the Taliban's policies and relations worsened. The United States withheld recognition of Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan, formally recognizing no faction as the government. The United Nations continued to seat representatives of the Rabbani government, not the Taliban. The State Department ordered the Afghan embassy in Washington, DC, closed in August 1997. U.N. Security Council Resolution 1193 (August 28, 1998) and 1214 (December 8, 1998) urged the Taliban to end discrimination against women. Women's rights groups urged the Clinton Administration not to recognize the Taliban government. In May 1999, the Senate-passed S.Res. 68 called on the President not to recognize an Afghan government that oppresses women.
The Taliban's hosting of Al Qaeda's leadership gradually became the Clinton Administration's overriding agenda item with Afghanistan. In April 1998, then-U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson and two other senior U.S. officials visited Afghanistan, but they did not meet Mullah Umar and the Taliban refused to hand over Bin Laden. After the August 7, 1998, Al Qaeda bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the Clinton Administration began to strongly pressure the Taliban to extradite him, imposing U.S. sanctions on Taliban-controlled Afghanistan and achieving adoption of some U.N. sanctions as well. On August 20, 1998, as a response to the Africa embassy bombings, the United States fired cruise missiles at Al Qaeda training camps in eastern Afghanistan. (6) Some observers assert that the Administration missed several opportunities to strike bin Laden himself, including a purported sighting of him by an unarmed Predator drone at a location called Tarnak Farm in Afghanistan in the fall of 2000. (7) Clinton Administration officials said that U.S. domestic and international support for ousting the Taliban militarily was lacking.
The "Northern Alliance" Congeals
The Taliban's policies caused different Afghan factions to ally with the Tajik core of the anti-Taliban opposition--the ousted President Rabbani, Ahmad Shah Masoud, and their ally in the Herat area, Ismail Khan. Joining the Tajik factions in the broader "Northern Alliance" were Uzbek, Hazara Shiite, and even some Pashtun Islamist factions discussed below. Virtually all the figures mentioned remain key players in politics in Afghanistan, sometimes allied with and at other times adversaries of President Hamid Karzai. (One key Tajik, Vice President Muhammad Fahim, who became military commander of the Alliance after Ahmad Shah Masud on September 9, 2001, died of natural causes in March 2014. He was replaced as Vice President by another key Alliance Tajik, former parliament speaker Yunus Qanooni.) The Soviet occupation-era parties remain relatively intact informally, although they do not generally operate under those names. (Detail on these figures is in CRS Report RS21922, Afghanistan: Politics, Elections, and Government Performance, by Kenneth Katzman.)
* Uzbeks/General Dostam. One major faction was the Uzbek militia (the
Junbush-Melli, or National Islamic Movement of Afghanistan) of General Abdul Rashid Dostam. Frequently referred to by some Afghans as one of the "warlords" who gained power during the anti-Soviet war, Dostam first joined those seeking to oust Rabbani during his 1992-1996 presidency, but later joined him and the other Northern Alliance factions opposed to the Taliban.
* Hazara Shiites. Members of Hazara tribes, mostly Shiite Muslims, are prominent in Bamiyan, Dai Kundi, and Ghazni provinces of central Afghanistan. During the various Afghan wars, the main Hazara Shiite militia was Hizb-eWahdat (Unity Party, composed of eight groups). In 1995, the Taliban captured and killed Hizb-e-Wahdat's leader Abdul Ali Mazari. One of Karzai's vice president's Karim Khalili, is a Hazara. Another prominent Hazara faction leader, Mohammad Mohaqeq, is a Karzai critic.
* Pashtun Islamists/Sayyaf. Some Pashtuns joined the Northern Alliance in opposing the Taliban. Among them was the conservative Islamist mujahedin faction Ittihad Islami) headed by Abd-i-Rab Rasul Sayyaf. Sayyaf reportedly viewed the Taliban as selling out Afghanistan to Al Qaeda.
Policy Pre-September 11, 2001
Throughout 2001, but prior to the September 11 attacks, Bush Administration policy differed little from Clinton Administration policy: applying economic and political pressure on the Taliban while retaining some dialogue with it, and refusing to militarily assist the Northern Alliance. The September 11 Commission report said that, in the months prior to the September 11 attacks, Administration officials leaned toward providing such aid, as well as aiding anti-Taliban Pashtun. Additional covert options were reportedly under consideration. (8) In accordance with U.N. Security Council Resolution 1333, in February 2001 the State Department ordered the Taliban representative office in New York closed, although Taliban representative Abdul Hakim Mujahid continued to operate informally. (9) In March 2001, Administration officials received a Taliban envoy to discuss bilateral issues. In one significant departure from Clinton Administration policy, the Bush Administration stepped up engagement with Pakistan to try to reduce its support for the Taliban. At that time, there were widespread but unconfirmed allegations that Pakistani advisers were helping the Taliban in their fight against the Northern Alliance.
Even though the Northern Alliance was supplied with Iranian, Russian, and Indian financial and military support, the Northern Alliance nonetheless continued to lose ground to the Taliban after it lost Kabul in 1996. By the time of the September 11 attacks, the Taliban controlled at least 75% of the country, including almost all provincial capitals. The Alliance suffered a major setback on September 9, 2001 (two days before, and possibly a part of, the September 11 attacks), when Ahmad Shah Masoud was assassinated by Al Qaeda operatives posing as journalists. He was succeeded by a top lieutenant, Muhammad Fahim, a veteran Tajik figure but who lacked Masoud's charisma and undisputed authority (and who died of natural causes in early 2014).
September 11 Attacks and Operation Enduring Freedom
After the September 11 attacks, the Bush Administration decided to militarily overthrow the Taliban when it refused a final U.S. offer to extradite Bin Laden in order to avoid military action. President Bush articulated a policy that equated those who harbor terrorists to terrorists themselves, and judged that a friendly regime in Kabul was needed to enable U.S. forces to search for Al Qaeda personnel there.
U.N. and Congressional Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF)
The Administration sought U.N. backing for military action, although the outcome was perhaps less clear cut than was sought. U.N. Security Council Resolution 1368 of September 12, 2001, said that the Council "expresses its readiness to take all necessary steps to respond (implying force) to the September 11 attacks." This was widely interpreted as a U.N. authorization for military action in response to the attacks, but it did not explicitly authorize Operation Enduring Freedom to oust the Taliban. Nor did the Resolution specifically reference Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, which allows for responses to threats to international peace and security.
In Congress, S.J.Res. 23 (passed 98-0 in the Senate and with no objections in the House, P.L. 107-40, signed September 18, 2011), was somewhat more explicit than the U.N. Resolution, authorizing: (10) "all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001 or harbored such organizations or persons."
Major Combat Operations
Major combat in Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom, OEF) began on October 7, 2001.
The U.S. effort initially consisted primarily of U.S. air-strikes on Taliban and Al Qaeda forces, facilitated by the cooperation between reported small numbers (about 1,000) of U.S. special operations forces and Central Intelligence Agency operatives. The purpose of these operations was to help the Northern Alliance and Pashtun anti-Taliban forces by directing U.S. air strikes on Taliban positions, for example on the Shomali plain that extends to Bagram Airfield; that airport marked the forward positions of the Northern Alliance. In late October 2001, about 1,300 Marines moved into Afghanistan to pressure the Taliban around Qandahar, but there were few pitched battles between U.S. and Taliban soldiers.
The Taliban regime unraveled rapidly after it lost Mazar-e-Sharif on November 9, 2001, to forces led by General Dostam, mentioned above. (11) Northern Alliance forces--despite promises to thenSecretary of State Colin Powell that they would not enter Kabul--did so on November 12, 2001, to popular jubilation. The Taliban subsequently lost the south and east to U.S.-supported Pashtun leaders, including Hamid Karzai. The Taliban regime formally ended on December 9, 2001, when the Taliban and Mullah Umar fled Qandahar, leaving it under Pashtun tribal law.
Subsequently, U.S. and Afghan forces conducted "Operation Anaconda" in the Shah-i-Kot Valley south of Gardez (Paktia Province) during March 2-19, 2002, against 800 Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters. In March 2003, about 1,000 U.S. troops raided suspected Taliban or Al Qaeda fighters in villages around Qandahar (Operation Valiant Strike). On May 1, 2003, then-Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld announced an end to "major combat."
Post-Taliban Governance Established (12)
The George W. Bush Administration argued that the U.S. departure from the region after the 1989 Soviet pullout allowed Afghanistan to degenerate into chaos, and that this pattern not be repeated after the defeat of the Taliban. The Bush Administration and international partners of the United States decided to try to dismantle local security structures and try to build a relatively strong, democratic, Afghan central government and develop Afghanistan economically. The effort, which many outside experts described as "nation-building," was supported by the United Nations, international institutions, and U.S. partners.
The Obama Administration's strategy review in late 2009 initially narrowed official U.S. goals to preventing terrorism safe haven in Afghanistan, but policy in some ways expanded the preexisting nation-building effort. (13) No matter how the U.S. mission has been defined, building the capacity of and reforming Afghan governance have been consistently judged to be key to the success of U.S. policy. These objectives have been stated explicitly in each Obama Administration policy review, strategy statement, and report on progress in Afghanistan, as well as all major international conferences on Afghanistan, including the NATO summit in Chicago during May 20-21, 2012, and the Tokyo donors' conference on July 8, 2012.
The conclusion of virtually every Administration and outside assessment has been that Afghan central governmental capacity and effectiveness has increased, but that local governance remains weak and all levels of government are plagued by governmental corruption. U.S. assessments say that the deficiencies in governance could jeopardize stability after the 2014 transition. Table 1 briefly depicts the process and events that led to the formation of the post-Taliban government of Afghanistan.
U.S. and International Civilian Policy Structure
U.S. and international civilian officials and institutions have helped build the capacity of the Afghan government. The U.S. embassy in Kabul, which had closed in 1989 when the Soviets pulled out of Afghanistan and was guarded by Afghan caretakers, reopened shortly after the Taliban was ousted in late 2001. The U.S. Ambassador and other high-ranking officials manage U.S. economic assistance and Embassy operations and coordinate U.S. rule of law programs. Some U.S. civilian and coalition military personnel are assigned as advisors to Afghan ministries. At the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Ambassador Ryan Crocker was succeeded by James Cunningham, formerly the "deputy Ambassador," in July 2012.
As the military aspect of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan winds down, the Administration has sought to "normalize" its presence in Afghanistan. The State Department is planning to assume the lead role in Afghanistan, as it did in Iraq, and all U.S. personnel will be under Embassy authority after 2016 under the plan announced by President Obama on May 27, 2014.
Consulates Opened or Planned. In June 2010, Deputy Secretary of State William Burns formally inaugurated a U.S. consulate in Herat. The State Department spent about $80 million on a facility in Mazar-e-Sharif that was slated to open as a U.S. consulate in April 2012, but the site was abandoned because of concerns about the security of the facility. A U.S. consulate there is considered an important signal of U.S. interest in engagement with the Tajik and Uzbek minorities of Afghanistan. Alternative locations are being considered, (14) and consulates are planned for the major cities of Qandahar and Jalalabad. The tables at the end of this report include U.S. funding for State Department and USAID operations, including Embassy construction and the "Embassy air wing" that transports U.S. officials and contractors around Afghanistan.
In terms of Afghan policymaking in Washington, DC, in February 2009, the Administration set up the position of appointed "Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan" (SRAP), occupied first by Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, reporting to Secretary of State Clinton. Holbrooke died on December 13, 2010, and that office at the State Department was led during February 2011-November 2012 by Ambassador Marc Grossman. In May 2013, he was replaced by Ambassador James Dobbins. Amb. Dobbins has announced he will retire in July 2014 but the SRAP office will remain in place for the near future, headed by deputy SRAP Dan Feldman.
From 2009-2012, the U.S. civilian presence expanded dramatically to mentor and advise the Afghan government, particularly at the local level. Since 2011, there have been about 1,300 U.S. civilian officials in Afghanistan--up from only about 400 in 2009--of which about one third serve outside Kabul helping build governance at the provincial and district levels. That is up from only 67 outside Kabul in 2009. However, the State Department is planning for a 20% reduction in staff by the completion of the transition in 2014.
On February 7, 2010, in an effort to improve civilian coordination between the United States, its foreign partners, and the Afghan government, the powers of the NATO "Senior Civilian Representative" in Afghanistan were enhanced as UK Ambassador Mark Sedwill took office. This office works with U.S. military officials, officials of partner countries, and the special U.N. Assistance Mission-Afghanistan (UNAMA, see Table 2 ). Since June 2013, that position has been held by Dutch senior diplomat Maurits Jochems.
Afghan Ambassador to the United States Sayed Tayib Jawad served as Ambassador from 2004 until his recall in August 2010. Then deputy Foreign Minister Eklil Hakimi replaced him on February 23, 2011. Hakimi was Afghanistan's chief negotiator of the Bilateral Security Agreement, discussed later.
Security Policy: Transition, and Beyond (15)
The Obama Administration policy goal is to prevent Afghanistan from again becoming a safe haven for terrorist organizations. The Administration has defined that goal as enabling the Afghan government and security forces to defend the country and govern effectively and transparently. However, President Obama defined the post-2014 mission somewhat more narrowly focused mainly on counterterrorism--in his May 27, 2014, statement on the post-2014 U.S. force posture in Afghanistan. The U.S. security mission had already changed from combat leadership to a "support" role on June 18, 2013. Even with Afghan forces in the lead, many of the long-standing pillars of U.S. and NATO security strategy remain intact until the end of 2014. The United States is partnered with 49 other countries and the Afghan government and security forces. On February 10, 2013, Marine General Joseph Dunford succeeded Lieutenant General John Allen as top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan. Gen. John Campbell, currently Army Vice Chief of Staff, has been nominated to succeed Dunford as top U.S. commander in Afghanistan. After 2016, according to President Obama's May 27 statement, U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan will be under chief-of-mission authority.
Who Is "The Enemy"? Taliban, Haqqani, Al Qaeda, and Others
Security in Afghanistan is challenged by several armed groups, loosely allied with each other. There is not agreement about the relative strength of insurgents in the areas where they operate.
Groups: The Taliban/"Quetta Shura Taliban"(QST)
The core insurgent faction in Afghanistan remains the Taliban movement, much of which remains at least nominally loyal to Mullah Muhammad Umar, leader of the Taliban regime during 19962001. He and those subordinates reportedly still operate from Pakistan, probably areas near the border or near the Pakistani city of Quetta. This accounts for the term usually applied to Umar and his aides: "Quetta Shura Taliban" (QST). In recent years, Umar has lost some of this top aides and commanders to combat or arrest, including Mullah Dadullah, Mullah Obeidullah Akhund, and Mullah Usmani.
Some of Umar's inner circle has remained intact, and the 2013 release by Pakistan of several top Taliban figures close to Umar has helped him restore the leadership circle. Mullah Abdul Ghani Bradar, arrested by Pakistan in February 2010 for purportedly trying to engage in negotiations with the Afghan government without Pakistani concurrence, was released in September 2013. Other pragmatists around Umar include Noorudin Turabi, logistics expert Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor, and head of the Taliban's senior shura council Shahabuddin Delawar. Umar and Taliban pragmatists reportedly blame their past association with Al Qaeda for their loss of power. Signals of Umar's potential for compromise have been several statements, including one on October 24, 2012, that the Taliban does not seek to regain a monopoly of power. He also was reportedly pivotal in reaching final agreement in the May 31, 2014, release of prisoner of war Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, discussed further below. However, the Taliban warned Afghans not to vote in the 2014 presidential election process and claimed responsibility for several attacks on election-related targets before and during the voting.
The pragmatists are facing debate from younger and reputedly hardline, anti-compromise leaders such as Mullah Najibullah (a.k.a. Umar Khatab) and Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir. Zakir, a U.S. detainee in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba until 2007, is the top military commander of the Taliban and purportedly believes outright Taliban victory is possible after 2014. The Taliban has several official spokespersons, including Qari Yusuf Ahmadi and Zabiullah Mujahid. It operates a clandestine radio station, "Voice of Shariat" and publishes videos.
Al Qaeda/Bin Laden
U.S. officials have long considered Al Qaeda to have a minimal presence in Afghanistan itself, and to act there as more a facilitator of rather than active fighting force. U.S. officials put the number of Al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan at between 50-100, (16) who operate mostly in provinces of eastern Afghanistan such as Kunar. Some of these fighters belong to Al Qaeda affiliates such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), which is active in Faryab and Konduz provinces. Still, there are concerns that Al Qaeda could regroup in Afghanistan if the security situation there becomes unstable. Admiral William McRaven, head of U.S. Special Operations Command, testified before the House Armed Services Committee on February 27, 2014, that Al Qaeda could reestablish itself in Afghanistan if all U.S. troops depart Afghanistan. Press reports say a key Al Qaeda operative, Faruq a-Qahtani al-Qatari, is working with Afghan militants to train a new generation of Al Qaeda members in Afghanistan in preparation for the U.S. troop drawdown by the end of 2014. (17)
Until the death of Bin Laden at the hands of a U.S. Special Operations Force raid on May 1, 2011, there had been frustration within the U.S. government with the search for Al Qaeda's top leaders. In December 2001, in the course of the post-September 11 major combat effort, U.S. Special Operations Forces and CIA operatives reportedly narrowed Osama Bin Laden's location to the Tora Bora mountains in Nangarhar Province (30 miles west of the Khyber Pass), but Afghan militia fighters surrounding the area did not prevent his escape into Pakistan. Some U.S. officials later publicly questioned the U.S. decision to rely mainly on Afghan forces in this engagement.
U.S. efforts to find remaining senior Al Qaeda leaders reportedly focus on his close ally Ayman al-Zawahiri, who is also presumed to be on the Pakistani side of the border and who was named new leader of Al Qaeda in June 2011. CNN reported October 18, 2010, that assessments from the U.S.-led coalition said Zawahiri was likely in a settled area, and not in a remote area. A U.S. strike reportedly missed Zawahiri by a few hours in the village of Damadola, Pakistan, in January 2006.18 Many observers say that Zawahiri is increasingly focused on taking political advantage of the Arab uprisings, particularly in Egypt where a Muslim Brotherhood leader, Mohammad Morsi, became president but then was ousted by the Egyptian military in July 2013. Other senior Al Qaeda leaders are said to be in Iran, including Sayf al Adl. Sulayman Abu Ghaith, son-in-law of bin Laden and Al Qaeda spokesperson, was expelled by Iran in March 2013 and taken into custody by U.S. authorities as he tried to return to his native Kuwait.
U.S. efforts--primarily through armed unmanned aerial vehicles--have killed numerous other senior Al Qaeda operatives in recent years. In August 2008, an airstrike was confirmed to have killed Al Qaeda chemical weapons expert Abu Khabab al-Masri. Two senior operatives allegedly involved in the 1998 embassy bombings in Africa reportedly were killed by an unmanned aerial vehicle strike in January 2009. Three top leaders, Ilyas Kashmiri, Attiyah Abd al-Rahman, and Abu Yahya al-Libi were killed in Pakistan by reported U.S. drone strikes in June and August 2011 and June 2012, respectively.
Hikmatyar Faction (HIG)
Another significant insurgent leader is former mujahedin party leader Gulbuddin Hikmatyar, who leads Hizb-e-Islami-Gulbuddin (HIG). The faction received extensive U.S. support against the Soviet Union, but turned against its mujahedin colleagues after the Communist government fell in 1992. The Taliban displaced HIG as the main opposition to the 1992-1996 Rabbani government. HIG currently is ideologically and politically allied with the Taliban insurgents, but HIG fighters sometimes clash with the Taliban over control of territory in HIG's main centers of activity in provinces to the north and east of Kabul. HIG is not widely considered a major factor on the Afghanistan battlefield and has focused primarily on high-profile attacks. A suicide bombing on September 18, 2012, which killed 12 persons, including eight South African nationals working for a USAID-chartered air service, was allegedly carried out by a female HIG member. HIG claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Kabul on May 16, 2013, that killed six Americans, (two soldiers and four contractors). On February 19, 2003, the U.S. government formally designated Hikmatyar as a "Specially Designated Global Terrorist," under Executive Order 13224, subjecting it to a freeze of any U.S.-based assets. The group is not designated as a "Foreign Terrorist Organization" (FTO).
HIG is nonetheless widely considered amenable to reconciliation with Kabul. In January 2010, Hikmatyar set conditions for reconciliation, including elections under a neutral caretaker government following a U.S. withdrawal. On March 22, 2010, the Afghan government and HIG representatives confirmed talks in Kabul, including meetings with Karzai, and Karzai subsequently acknowledged additional meetings. Some close to Hikmatyar attended the consultative peace loya jirga on June 2-4, 2010, which discussed the reconciliation issue. HIG figures met government representatives at a June 2012 academic conference in Paris and a follow up meeting in Chantilly, France, on December 20-21, 2012. In January 2014, Hikmatyar reportedly told his partisans to vote in the April 5, 2014, Afghan elections--an instruction widely interpreted as an attempt to position HIG for a future political role.
Haqqani Faction (19)
The "Haqqani Network," founded by Jalaludin Haqqani, a mujahedin commander and U.S. ally during the U.S.-backed war against the Soviet Union, is often cited by U.S. officials as a potent threat to Afghan security. The Defense Department report on Afghan security calls the faction " "the most virulent strain of the insurgency, the greatest risk to coalition forces, and a critical enabler of Al Qaeda." (20) Jalaludin Haqqani served in the Taliban regime (1996-2001) as Minister of Tribal Affairs, and his network has since fought against the Karzai government. The Haqqani Network is believed closer to Al Qaeda than to the Taliban--in part because one of the elder Haqqani's wives is Arab. Over the past few years, he has delegated operation control to his sons Siraj (Sirajjudin), Badruddin, and Nasruddin. Badruddin was reportedly killed in a U.S. or Pakistani strike in late August 2012, and Nasruddin was killed near Islamabad, Pakistan, in November 2013. The deaths of two Haqqani sons appears to support the view of those who say the Haqqani Network's influence in its core base of Paktia, Paktika, and Khost provinces of Afghanistan is waning. Some prominent Afghan clans in those areas are said to have drifted from the Haqqani orbit to focus on participating in the Afghan political process. The Haqqani Network had about 3,000 fighters and supporters at its zenith during 2004-2010. The Haqqani Network's earns funds through licit and illicit businesses in Pakistan and the Persian Gulf and in controlling parts of Khost Province.
Suggesting it has acted as a tool of Pakistani interests, the Haqqani network has targeted several Indian interests in Afghanistan, almost all of which have been located outside the Haqqani main base of operations in eastern Afghanistan. The network claimed responsibility for two attacks on India's embassy in Kabul (July 2008 and October 2009), and is considered the likely perpetrator of the August 4, 2013, attack on India's consulate in Jalalabad. U.S. officials also attributed to the group the June 28, 2011, attack on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul; a September 10, 2011, truck bombing in Wardak Province (which injured 77 U.S. soldiers); and attacks on the U.S. Embassy and ISAF headquarters in Kabul on September 13, 2011.
The attacks on Indian interests and the fact that it is at least tolerated in the North Waziristan area of Pakistan supports those who allege that it has ties to Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), which might view the Haqqanis as a potential ally in a future Afghan political structure. Then Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mullen, following September 2011 attacks on U.S. Embassy Kabul, testified (Senate Armed Services Committee) on September 22, 2011, that the Haqqani network acts "as a veritable arm" of the ISI. Other senior officials issued more nuanced versions of that assertion.
Perhaps in line with Pakistan's shift toward accepting a political solution for the Afghan conflict, on November 13, 2012, a top Haqqani commander said that the Haqqani Network would participate in political settlement talks with the United States if Taliban leader Mullah Umar decided to undertake such talks. (21) A Haqqani representative reportedly was stationed at the Taliban office in Doha, Qatar, that briefly opened on June 18, 2013. It has also been reported that U.S. officials met with Haqqani representatives in 2011 in UAE. (22)
The faction's possible participation in a settlement could potentially be complicated by its designation as an FTO under the Immigration and Naturalization Act. In July 2010, then-top U.S. commander in Afghanistan General David Petraeus advocated that the Haqqani network be named as an FTO. (23) Some in the State Department reportedly opposed an FTO designation because that could create pressure to name Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism. A number of Haqqani leaders had already been sanctioned as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGT) under Executive Order 13224. In the 112th Congress, S. 1959 (Haqqani Network Terrorist
Designation Act of 2012), enacted on August 10, 2012 (P.L. 112-168). It required, within 30 days of enactment, an Administration report on whether the group meets the criteria for FTO designation and an explanation of a negative decision. On September 9, 2012, the Administration reported to Congress that the Haqqani Network meets the criteria for FTO designation and it was so designated.
A major Pakistani group, the Pakistani Taliban (Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, TTP), primarily challenges the government of Pakistan but also supports the Afghan Taliban. Some TTP fighters reportedly operate from safe havens in Taliban-controlled areas on the Afghan side of the border. Based in part on a failed bombing in New York City in May 2010 allegedly by the TTP, the State Department designated the TTP as an FTO on September 2, 2010. Its current leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, was named as terrorism supporting entities that day. He succeeded Baitullah Mehsud, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in August 2009.
Another Pakistani Islamist militant group said to be increasingly active inside Afghanistan is Laskhar-e-Tayyiba (LET, or Army of the Righteous). LET was initially focused on operations against Indian control of Kashmir, but reportedly is increasingly active elsewhere in South Asia and elsewhere. The State Department has stated that the group was responsible for the May 23, 2014, attack on India's consulate in Herat. Another Pakistan-based group that is said to be somewhat active in Afghanistan is Lashkar-i-Janghvi--it was accused of several attacks on Afghanistan's Hazara Shiite community during 2011-2012.
As far as tactics, prior to 2011, U.S. commanders worried most about insurgent use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), including roadside bombs. In January 2010, President Karzai issued a decree banning importation of fertilizer chemicals (ammonium nitrate) commonly used for the roadside bombs, but there reportedly is informal circumvention of the ban for certain civilian uses, and the material reportedly still comes into Afghanistan from at least two major production plants in Pakistan. U.S. commanders have said they have verified some use of surface-to-air missiles, (24) although it missiles apparently were not used in the Taliban's downing of a U.S. Chinook helicopter that killed 30 U.S. soldiers on August 6, 2011.
Some insurgents have used bombs hidden in turbans, which had, until October 2011, generally not been searched out of respect for Afghan religious traditions. Such a bomb killed former President Rabbani on September 20, 2011, as noted above. A suicide bomber who wounded then intelligence chief Asadullah Khalid in December 2012 had explosives implanted in his body.
A major concern, particularly during 2012, has been "insider attacks" (attacks on ISAF forces by Afghan security personnel, also known as "green on blue" attacks). (25) These attacks, some of which apparently were carried out by Taliban infiltrators into the Afghan forces, declined by late 2012 but continued to occur occasionally in 2013 and 2014.
Insurgent Financing: Narcotics Trafficking and Other Methods (26)
All of the insurgent groups in Afghanistan benefit, at least in part, from narcotics trafficking. However, the adverse effects are not limited to funding insurgents; the trafficking also undermines rule of law within government ranks. At the same time, narcotics trafficking is an area on which there has been progress in recent years. Fifteen of Afghanistan's 34 provinces are considered "poppy free" by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime--although that figure is down from 17 provinces in 2012. The trafficking generates an estimated $70 million-$100 million per year for insurgents--perhaps about 25% of the insurgents' budgets estimated by some U.N. accounts at about $400 million.
The Obama Administration approach focuses on promoting legitimate agricultural alternatives to poppy growing in line with Afghan government preferences. In July 2009, the United States ended its prior focus on eradication of poppy fields on the grounds that this practice was driving Afghans to support the Taliban as protectors of their livelihood. One U.S. program, the "Good Performers Initiative" (GPI), gives financial awards to provinces that succeed in reducing cultivation. Afghan personnel continue to conduct some eradication activities, with U.S. and NATO support. The U.S. military flies Afghan and U.S. counternarcotics agents (Drug Enforcement Agency, DEA) on missions and evacuates casualties from counterdrug operations, as well as assists an Afghan helicopter squadron transport Afghan counternarcotics forces. The DEA presence in Afghanistan expanded from 13 agents in 2008 to over 100 by 2013, but will fall by about 60% by the end of 2014.
The Bush and Obama Administrations have exercised waiver provisions to required certifications of full Afghan cooperation needed to provide more than congressionally stipulated amounts of U.S. economic assistance to Afghanistan. Successive appropriations have required certification of Afghan cooperation on counternarcotics, but no funds for Afghanistan have been held up on these grounds.
The Obama Administration has placed additional focus on other sources of Taliban funding, including continued donations from wealthy residents of the Persian Gulf. It established a multinational task force to combat Taliban financing generally, not limited to narcotics, and U.S. officials have emphasized with Persian Gulf counterparts the need for cooperation. On June 29, 2012, the Administration sanctioned (by designating them as terrorism supporting entities under Executive Order 13224) two money exchange networks (hawalas) in Afghanistan and Pakistan allegedly used by the Taliban to move its funds earned from narcotics and other sources. However, the sanctions prevent U.S. persons from dealing with those money exchanges, and will likely have limited effect on the networks' operations in the South Asia region.
The U.S.-Led Military Effort: 2001-2008
During 2002-2009, most U.S. forces were in eastern Afghanistan, leading Regional Command East (RC-E) of the NATO/ISAF operation. The most restive provinces in RC-E have been Paktia, Paktika, Khost, Kunar, and Nuristan. Helmand, Qandahar, Uruzgan, Zabol, Nimruz, and Dai Kundi provinces constituted a "Regional Command South (RC-S)"--formally transferred to NATO/ISAF responsibility on July 31, 2006. The increased U.S. troop strength in RC-S in 2009 and 2010--a product of the fact that most of the 2009-2010 U.S. "surge" was focused on the south--prompted a May 2010 NATO decision to bifurcate RC-S, with the United States leading a "southwest" subdivision (RC-SW) for Helmand and Nimruz and later taking command of both RC-S and RC-SW. Some U.S. forces have been under German command in RC-North, headquartered in Konduz, and Italy has led RC-West. Turkey has commanded ISAF forces in the capital, Kabul, since 2011.
During 2001 to mid-2006, U.S. forces and Afghan troops fought relatively low levels of insurgent violence with focused combat operations mainly in the south and east where ethnic Pashtuns predominate. These included "Operation Mountain Viper" (August 2003); "Operation Avalanche" (December 2003); "Operation Mountain Storm" (March-July 2004); "Operation Lightning Freedom" (December 2004-February 2005); and "Operation Pil" (Elephant, October 2005). By late 2005, U.S. and partner commanders considered the insurgency mostly defeated and NATO/ISAF assumed lead responsibility for security in all of Afghanistan during 2005-2006. The optimistic assessments proved misplaced when violence increased significantly in mid-2006.
NATO operations during 2006-2008 cleared key districts but did not prevent subsequent re-infiltration. NATO/ISAF also tried preemptive combat and increased development work, without durable success. As a result, growing U.S. concern took hold, reflected in such statements as one in September 2008 by then-Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Admiral Mike Mullen that "I'm not sure we're winning" in Afghanistan.
Reasons for the security deterioration included popular unrest over corruption in the Afghan government; the absence of governance or security forces in many rural areas; the safe haven enjoyed by militants in Pakistan; the reluctance of some NATO contributors to actively combat insurgents; a popular backlash against civilian casualties caused by military operations; and unrealized expectations of economic development. Even as they sought to address many of these factors, the United States and its partners decided to respond primarily by increasing force levels. U.S. troop levels started 2006 at 30,000 and increased to 39,000 by April 2009. Partner forces also increased during that period to 39,000 at the end of 2009--rough parity with U.S. forces. In September 2008, the U.S. military and NATO each began strategy reviews. These reviews were briefed to the incoming Obama Administration.
Obama Administration Policy: "Surge" and Transition
The Obama Administration maintained that Afghanistan needed to be given a higher priority than it was during the Bush Administration, but that the U.S. mission in Afghanistan not be indefinite. The Administration integrated the reviews underway at the end of the Bush Administration's into an overarching 60-day inter-agency "strategy review," chaired by South Asia expert Bruce Riedel and co-chaired by then SRAP Holbrooke and then-Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy. President Obama announced a "comprehensive" strategy on March 27, 200927 that announced deployment of an additional 21,000 U.S. forces.
McChrystal Assessment and December 1, 2009, Surge Announcement
On May 11, 2009, then-Secretary of Defense Gates announced the replacement of General McKieman with General Stanley McChrystal, who headed U.S. Special Operations forces from 2003 to 2008. He assumed the command on June 15, 2009, and, on August 30, 2009, delivered a strategy assessment that recommended that (28)
* the goal of the U.S. military should be to protect the population rather than to focus on searching out and combating Taliban concentrations. Indicators of success such as ease of road travel, participation in local shuras, and normal life for families are more significant than counts of enemy fighters killed.
* there is potential for "mission failure" unless a fully resourced, comprehensive counterinsurgency strategy is pursued to reverse Taliban momentum within 12-18 months. About 44,000 additional U.S. combat troops would be needed to provide the greatest chance for his strategy's success.
The assessment set off debate within the Administration and another policy review. Some senior U.S. officials, such as then-Secretary of Defense Gates, were concerned that adding many more U.S. forces could create among the Afghan people a sense of "occupation" that could prove counterproductive. The high-level review included at least nine high-level meetings, chaired by President Obama, who announced the following at West Point academy on December 1, 2009: (29)
* That 30,000 additional U.S. forces (a "surge") would be sent to "reverse the Taliban's momentum" and strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan's security forces and government. The addition brought U.S. force levels to 100,000.
* There would be a transition, beginning in July 2011, to Afghan leadership of the stabilization effort and a corresponding drawdown of U.S. force levels.
The Obama Administration argued that a transition to Afghan security leadership beginning in July 2011 would compel the Afghan government to place greater effort on training its own forces. However, Afghan and regional officials viewed the deadline as signaling a rapid decrease in U.S. involvement. (30) To address that perception, the November 19-20, 2010, NATO summit in Lisbon, which decided on a gradual transition to Afghan leadership that would begin in 2011 and would be completed by the end of 2014.
As this debate over transition timeframes was taking place, on June 23, 2010, President Obama accepted the resignation of General McChrystal after comments by him and his staff to Rolling Stone magazine that disparaged several U.S. civilian policy makers on Afghanistan. General Petraeus was named General McChrystal's successor; he was confirmed on June 30, 2010, and assumed command on July 4, 2010.
Transition and Drawdown: Afghans in the Lead
Prior to the implementation of the U.S. "surge," the Afghan Interior Ministry estimated (August 2009) that the Karzai government controlled about 30% of the country, while insurgents controlled 4% (13 out of 364 districts) and influenced or operated in another 30%. Tribes and local groups with varying degrees of loyalty to the central government controlled the remainder. Some outside groups report higher percentages of insurgent control or influence. (31) The Taliban had named "shadow governors" in 33 out of 34 of Afghanistan's provinces, although many provinces in northern Afghanistan were assessed as having minimal Taliban presence.
Despite doubts about the durability of progress, the results of the surge were considered sufficient to permit the transition to Afghan security leadership to begin on schedule in July 2011. The transition was divided into five "tranches"--the first was announced in March 2011, the second in November 2011, the third in May 2012, the fourth (52 districts) on December 31, 2012, and the fifth and final tranche (91 districts along the Pakistan border) on June 18, 2013. The process of completing the transition to Afghan responsibility takes 12-18 months.
Afghan Forces Assume Lead Operational Role in June 2013
The announcement of the final tranche coincided with the announcement by President Karzai and visiting NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen that day (June 18, 2013) that Afghan forces were now in the lead role throughout Afghanistan and NATO/ISAF had moved to a supporting role. That shift in roles implemented plans discussed by President Obama on March 15, 2012, and then announced formally in a joint statement following a meeting between President Karzai and President Obama on January 11, 2013.32 According to that statement, the move to a support role implied that U.S. forces cease patrolling Afghan villages.
In concert with the transition to Afghan lead, there has been a gradual drawdown of U.S. forces. Taking into account the assessment that the killing of Osama Bin Laden represented a key accomplishment of the core U.S. mission, and financial needs to reduce the size of the U.S. budget deficit, on June 22, 2011 President Obama announced that:
* 10,000 U.S. forces would be withdrawn by the end of 2011. That drawdown brought U.S. force levels down to 90,000.
* 23,000 forces (the remainder of the surge forces) would be withdrawn by September 2012. This draw-down, completed in September 20, 2012, brought down U.S. force levels to 68,000.
In the February 12, 2013, State of the Union message, President Obama announced that U.S. force level would drop to 34,000 by February 2014. This reduction was completed. The remainder of the U.S. contingent that will exit by the end of 2014 deadline are being withdrawn gradually to reach. The U.S. force level is about 30,000 the U.S. force and is expected to shrink to about 22,000 by October 31 and then to 9,800 (residual force discussed below) by the end of 2014.
In concert with the U.S. drawdown, U.S. airpower in country has been reduced, limiting the capability to conduct strikes against insurgent positions. (33) The United States has closed nearly 300 of its bases around Afghanistan and about 80 remain as of mid-2014. The provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs), discussed below, have mostly been turned over to Afghan institutions. DOD is moving approximately $36 billion worth of U.S. military equipment out of Afghanistan, including 28,000 vehicles and trailers.
Some in Congress had expressed support for winding down the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan more rapidly than the rate implemented by the Administration. H.Con.Res. 248, requiring a withdrawal, failed by a vote of 356 to 65 on March 10, 2011. In the 112th Congress, after the death of Osama Bin Laden on May 1, 2011, an amendment to the defense authorization bill (H.R. 1540) requiring a plan to accelerate the transition to Afghan-lead security failed by a vote of 204215 on May 26, 2011. On May 25, 2011, an amendment to that same bill that would require U.S. troops to withdraw most of its forces failed 123-294. A provision of the FY2013 defense authorization bill (Section 1226 of P.L. 112-239) expresses the Sense of Congress that the United States draw down troops at a steady pace through the end of 2014.
Post-2014 Residual Force and 2016 Exit
Assessing that Afghan forces will continue to need direct military support after 2014 to prevent the Taliban from advancing, President Obama announced on May 27, 2014, the size of the post-2014 U.S. force and plan for an eventual U.S. military exit from Afghanistan after 2016. According to President Obama's May 27 announcement, (34) the post-2014 force will be as follows, contingent on Afghanistan signing the Bilateral Security Agreement discussed further below:
* The U.S. military contingent in Afghanistan is to be 9,800 in 2015, deployed in various parts of Afghanistan, consisting mostly of trainers. The nominee to head U.S. Special Operations Forces, Lt Gen. Joseph Votel, testified at his confirmation hearings on July 10, 2014, that about 2,000 of the post-2014 force will be Special Operations Forces, of which about 980 would directly support a counterterrorism mission. (35) Press reports indicate that NATO and other partner countries will deploy an additional 4,000 troops as part of the overall "Resolute Support Mission." The international forces will not conduct any patrols of Afghan territory, and the anti-Taliban mission will be completely in the hands of the ANSF. Some of the military personnel will continue to advise the Defense and Interior Ministries.
* As of January 1, 2016, the U.S. force will decline to 4,900 based in Kabul and at Bagram Airfield.
* After 2016, the U.S. military presence will decline to one consistent with normal security relations with Afghanistan - a figure assessed at about 1,000 by experts.
The forces will be under U.S. Chief-of-Mission authority and there will be no separate U.S. or NATO military chain of command in country. The U.S. forces will primarily protect U.S. installations and help process Foreign Military Sales (FMS) of weaponry to Afghanistan, which includes training the Afghans on weapons delivered.
As far as non-U.S. contributions to Resolute Support, Germany announced in late April 2013 that it was willing to keep 600-800 forces in Afghanistan after 2014, mostly in the northern sector where Germany now leads the international contingent. In June 2013, Italy said it would contribute up to 800 forces. Georgia has committed about 750 forces; Australia, 450; and Romania, 250. Turkey has said it will continue its leadership in the Kabul area beyond 2014. The United States and its partners appear to have decided to retain NATO leadership over the post-2014 international force.
Debate Over Post-2014 Security Outcomes
President Obama's May 27 announcement stimulated debate over how Afghanistan will fare after 2014. U.S. and other experts and Afghan officials and parliamentarians supported the announcement with respect to planned 2015 and 2016 force levels, but expressed concern about the virtual complete departure of international forces after 2016. Some assert that the ANSF will not be able to secure Afghanistan if left almost completely on its own by 2016, and that there could be substantial Taliban gains and even a full political collapse after international forces depart. The Administration asserts that a full military departure from Afghanistan will free up U.S. resources for anti-terrorism missions elsewhere and focus the Afghans on improving their training and organization that they require to operate on their own after 2016.
Those who take an optimistic view of the post-2014 period often quote from recent Defense Department reports and comments. The DOD report on security and stability in Afghanistan released in April 2014 (covering October 1, 2013-March 31, 2014) (36) assessed that the ANSF has been able to maintain the gains made by ISAF. It repeated the assertion of the previous DoD report that "insurgent territorial influence and kinetic capabilities have remained static." The report notes that the overwhelming majority of violence occurs in areas with only 25% of the Afghan population. The report asserts that the Taliban is rejected by the population. Apparently factoring in a residual presence into their analysis, General Dempsey and General Dunford said in early 2013 that the Taliban will be a persistent, though not an "existential" threat, over the longer term. The nominee to replace Gen. Dunford, Gen. John Campbell, testified at his confirmation hearings before the Senate Armed Services Committee on July 10, 2014, that "I have confidence in the strength of the Afghan security forces. They've held strong despite significant casualties during the 2013 and 2014 fighting seasons." (37)
On the other hand, some other U.S. agencies and U.S.-funded reports have been less optimistic. A reported National Intelligence Estimate, the findings of which were reported in late December 2013 assesses that, even with continued international force support, Afghan security is likely to erode significantly by 2017 as both insurgents and pro-government faction leaders increase their geographic and political influence. (38) Some U.S. officials were quoted as disagreeing with the NIE findings. A report by the Center for Naval Analyses, mandated by the FY2013 National Defense Authorization Act, entitled "Independent Assessment of the Afghan National Security Forces," released February 2014, says, "We conclude that the security environment in Afghanistan will become more challenging after the drawdown of most international forces in 2014, and that the Taliban insurgency will become a greater threat to Afghanistan's stability in the 2015-2018 timeframe than it is now." (39)
Recent events also indicate the difficulties the ANSF faces as they try to keep the Taliban at bay with decreasing international support. As of early 2013, some ANSF units have been entering into local ceasefires with Taliban forces in restive areas of Afghanistan. The Taliban has been able to challenge the ANSF in several districts of northern Helmand province in mid-2014, particularly the Sangin district. In late June 2014, about 600 Taliban fighters attacked government forces in several districts, making some gains. In early July 2014, attacks killed eight members of the Afghan air force in Kabul, and Taliban fighters attempted to storm provincial governance and security offices in the key city of Qandahar. The United Nations announced on July 9, 2014, that civilian casualties in Afghanistan surged in the first half of 2014 to their highest level since 2009.
Many experts agree that factional militias will reorganize to deter or prevent Taliban gains as the international force presence diminishes. Herat leader Ismail Khan reportedly has already begun taking steps to reorganize his Soviet and Taliban-era militia. Prior to his death in March 2014, then Vice President Muhammad Fahim discussed potentially reconstituting the Northern Alliance force in anticipation of the need to assist Afghan government forces against the Taliban. Prior to joining the candidacy of Ashraf Ghani in the April 5 presidential election, Uzbek leader Dostam, also reportedly was trying to reorganize his loyalists in northern Afghanistan. These and similar moves could spark ethnic and communal conflict from an all-out struggle for power and a reversion to Afghan rule by faction leaders rather than elected leaders.
Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA)
The post-2014 U.S. military presence is contingent on signature of the BSA. U.S. officials and commanders have expressed concern that the dispute over the Afghan presidential election could delay the signature further and complicate U.S. and partner country planning for the post-2014 security mission. A similar agreement between Afghanistan and post-2014 NATO force contributors will likely be modeled on the U.S.-Afghanistan BSA. The outcome of the presidential election is key, because President Karzai has refused to sign the BSA even though Afghanistan and the United States finalized the text in November 2013. Both of Karzai's possible successors, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, have pledged to sign the BSA.
The United States has asserted that all substantive issues in the BSA have been resolved. During an October 11-12, 2013 visit to Afghanistan, Secretary of State John Kerry and President Karzai announced that they had resolved U.S.-Afghan differences on the key issues of U.S. operations authority and security guarantee. (40) Karzai apparently relented on the demand that the United States protect Afghanistan from Pakistan, and the United States reportedly agreed to coordinate with the Afghan security forces on post-2014 anti-Al Qaeda operations. Karzai stated that the decision on legal immunities for U.S. forces in Afghanistan--a non-negotiable U.S. requirement--would be placed before the Afghan National Assembly (parliament) and a special loya jirga--a traditional Afghan assembly composed of about 2,500 notables convened to consider major issues. As the loya jirga began to convene on November 21, 2013, Secretary Kerry announced that the two sides had finalized all points of the BSA. The loya jirga concluded on November 24, 2013 with a decision to authorize Karzai to sign the agreement. (41) However, Karzai asserted that stipulations were still needed in the BSA to prevent U.S. troops from raiding Afghan homes, either on foot or by remotely piloted vehicle; that the 20 or so Afghans in detention at the U.S. facility in Guantanamo Bay be returned to Afghanistan; and that the United States facilitate a political settlement with the Taliban.
He subsequently refused to sign on the grounds that the signature be left to his successor who will have to implement it. Karzai might have also been trying to address domestic pressure from those who see the BSA as a forfeiture of Afghan sovereignty; pressure from Iran not to have U.S. forces in the region; possible concerns that signing the document would immediately render Karzai irrelevant to international powers. Karzai might have also perceived that refusing to sign the agreement would induce the Taliban to negotiated a political solution.
Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA)
The BSA discussed above is being negotiated pursuant to the broader "Strategic Partnership Agreement" (SPA) signed by President Obama and President Karzai in Afghanistan on May 1, 2012. That broad agreement signaled that the United States is committed to Afghan stability and development for many years after the transition is complete. The SPA was completed after more than one year of negotiations that focused on resolution of two disagreements in particular--Afghan insistence on control over detention centers and a halt to or control over nighttime raids on insurgents by U.S. forces. The SPA agreement also demonstrated U.S.-Afghan ability to overcome public Afghan discomfort over such issues as the March 2011 burning of a Quran by a Florida pastor; the mistaken burning by U.S. soldiers of several Qurans on February 20, 2012; and the March 11, 2012, killing of 16 Afghans by a U.S. soldier, Sergeant Robert Bales, who was arrested and tried in the United States. On September 17, 2012, several hundred Afghans demonstrated near a U.S.-Afghan training facility east of Kabul city (Camp Phoenix) to protest a video made in the United States, "The Innocence of Muslims." About 40 Afghan police reportedly were wounded preventing the crowd from reaching the facility.
The strategic partnership agreement represents a broad outline of the post-2014 relationship, with details to be filled in subsequently. It has a duration of 10 years. The major provisions include the following: (42)
* A commitment to continue to foster U.S.-Afghan "close cooperation" to secure Afghanistan. This strongly implies, but does not state outright, that U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan after 2014, and no troop numbers are mentioned in the document. The document provides for negotiations on the Bilateral Security Agreement, discussed above.
* The U.S. Administration will request appropriations to provide training and arms to the Afghan security forces. The agreement does not stipulate dollar amounts or which systems are to be provided.
* The United States will designate Afghanistan as a "Major Non-NATO Ally," a designation reserved for close U.S. allies. In keeping with that pledge, on July 7, 2012, then-Secretary Clinton stopped in Afghanistan and announced that designation. It opens Afghanistan to receive (sale, donation) U.S. weaponry of the same level of sophistication as that sold to U.S. NATO allies, and facilitates provision of training and funds to leasing defense articles.
* There will be no "permanent" U.S. bases or the use of Afghan facilities for use against neighboring countries, but the agreement would apparently allow longterm U.S. use of Afghan facilities. Over the past several years, successive National Defense Authorization Acts have contained a provision explicitly prohibiting the U.S. establishment of permanent bases in Afghanistan.
* The Administration will request economic aid for Afghanistan for the duration of the agreement (2014-2024). No amounts were specified in the document. The Afghan government reportedly wanted a $2 billion per year commitment written into the agreement but the United States told Afghanistan that amounts can only be determined through the appropriations process.
In October 2011, Karzai called a loya jirga to endorse the concept of the SPA as well as his insistence on Afghan control over detentions and approval authority for U.S.-led night raids. A November 16-19, 2011, traditional loya jirga (the jirga was conducted not in accordance with the constitution and its views are therefore non-binding), consisting of about 2,030 delegates, gave Karzai the approvals he sought, both for the pact itself and his suggested conditions. The final SPA was ratified by the Afghanistan National Assembly on May 26, 2012, by a vote of 180-4.
The SPA replaced an earlier, more limited strategic partnership agreement established on May 23, 2005, when Karzai and President Bush issued a "joint declaration." (43) The declaration provided for U.S. forces to have access to Afghan military facilities, in order to prosecute "the war against international terror and the struggle against violent extremism." Karzai's signing of the declaration was supported by the 1,000 Afghan representatives on May 8, 2005, at a consultative jirga in Kabul. The jirga supported an indefinite presence of international forces to maintain security but urged Karzai to delay a firm decision to request such a presence.
Transition Pillar: Building Afghan Forces and Establishing Rule of Law
Key to the post-2014 security of Afghanistan is the effectiveness of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), consisting primarily of the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP). Analysis of the ANSF strengths and weaknesses is contained in the semi-annual DOD reports on Afghanistan stability and the Center for Naval Analyses study released in February 2014, referenced earlier. (44)
The ANSF is in the lead on more than 90% of all operations and bears the overwhelming number of coalition casualties. The ANSF has lost no significant amount of territory to the insurgency, according to the DoD report referenced above, although the report notes that U.S. officials are evaluating the effect of certain "ceasefires" the ANSF has reached with insurgents in certain places. As noted above, ANSF performance was widely credited for limiting insurgent violence during the April 5, 2014, election. The ANSF is still supported by international forces, and its performance in an environment of diminishing international involvement remains in question.
Among the major concerns about the ANSF is that about 35% of the force does not reenlist each year, meaning that about one-third of the force must be recruited to replenish its ranks. Many believe that the force has been expanded too quickly to allow for thorough vetting or for recruitment of the most qualified personnel. Many units also suffer from a deficiency of weaponry, spare parts, and fuel, although those shortfalls are ebbing, according to DOD.
U.S. commanders frequently note concerns about the ANSF's deficiency of logistical capabilities, such as airlift, medical evacuation, resupply, and other associated functions. It is these deficiencies that are a particular focus of U.S. planning for the post-2014 period. Some of the deficiency throughout the ANSF is due to illiteracy, which prompted an increasing focus (and about $200 million in funding for) providing literacy training. The goal was to have all ANSF have at least first-grade literacy, and half to have third-grade literacy, by the end of 2014. While literacy in the ANSF has been improved by the program, the SIGAR reported in January 2014 that these targets might be unrealistic.
U.S. forces, along with partner countries and contractors, continue to train the ANSF. In February 2010, the U.S.-run "Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan" (CSTC-A) that ran the training was subordinated to the broader NATO Training Mission--Afghanistan (NTM-A). CSTC-A's mission was reoriented to building the capacity of the Afghan Defense and Interior Ministries, and to provide resources to the ANSF.
Current and Post-2014 Size of the ANSF
On January 21, 2010, the joint U.N.-Afghan "Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board" (JCMB) agreed that, by October 2011, the ANA would expand to 171,600 and the ANP to about 134,000, (total ANSF of 305,600). Both forces reached that level by September 2011. In August 2011, a larger target size of 352,000 (195,000 ANA and 157,000 ANP) was set, to be reached by November 2012. The gross size of the force reached approximately that level by the end of September 2012, and remain at levels just below those targets. That figure does not include the approximately 30,000 local security forces discussed below. A higher ANSF target level of 378,000 was not adopted because of the concerns about the Afghan ability to sustain so large a force. About 1,700 women serve in the ANSF, of which about 1,370 are police.
In the run-up to the May 20-21, 2012, NATO summit in Chicago, which focused on long-term financial and military sustainment of the ANSF, there was initial agreement to reduce the total ANSF to 228,500 by 2017. However, based on assessments of the difficulty of securing Afghanistan, the February 21, 2013, NATO meeting reversed that decision.
ANSF Top Leadership/Ethnic and Factional Considerations
In the immediate aftermath of the 2001 ousting of the Taliban regime, Northern Alliance figures took key security positions and weighted recruitment for the new ANSF toward ethnic Tajiks. Many Pashtuns, in reaction, refused recruitment, but the naming of a Pashtun, Abdul Rahim Wardak, as Defense Minister in December 2004, mitigated that difficulty. The problem was further alleviated with better pay and more close involvement by U.S. forces, and that the force is ethnically integrated in each unit and has become representative. According to recent DOD reports, the overall ANSF force is now roughly in line with the ethnic composition of Afghanistan, although Tajiks are still slightly overrepresented in the command ranks.
Until 2010, the chief of staff of the ANA was General Bismillah Khan, a Tajik and former Northern Alliance commander. He was replaced by a Pashtun, Lieutenant General Sher Mohammad Karimi. Khan then served as Interior Minister until his ouster by the National Assembly in August 2012; in that position, he reportedly promoted his Tajik allies to key Interior Ministry and ANP positions. In September 2012, Karzai appointed Khan as Defense Minister, and Khan has earned U.S. and partner country praise for his performance as Defense Minister, to date.
The same day he appointed Khan, Karzai appointed professional police commander General Ghulam Mojtaba Patang as Interior Minister. Patang entered his position with high respect as the first professional officer to be appointed to the top police slot. The National Assembly voted to remove him in July 2013 for failing to improve security along the Kabul-Qandahar highway. Karzai replaced him on September 1, 2013, with Umar Daudzai, Karzai's former chief of staff, a Pashtun, who was serving as Ambassador to Pakistan. A highly respected Tajik figure, Kabul police chief General Mohammad Ayub Salangi, was simultaneously appointed deputy Interior Minister.
Also in September 2012, Karzai named as intelligence director (National Directorate of Security, NDS) Asadullah Khalid, former Qandahar governor and a close Karzai ally, replacing Rehmatullah Nabil. Khalid was wounded by a potential assassin in December 2012. His predecessor, Nabil, was returned to the post on September 1, 2013.
On the assumption that the post-2014 ANSF force would shrink to 228,000, it was determined that sustaining a force that size would cost $4.1 billion annually. The United States pledged $2.3 billion yearly; the Afghan government pledged $500 million yearly; and allied contributions constituted the remaining $1.3 billion. The Afghan contribution is to rise steadily until 2024, at which time Afghanistan is expected to fund its own security needs. However, the apparent U.S. and NATO decision to keep the ANSF force at 352,000 produced revised funding requirement levels of about $6 billion per year. Revised donor pledges to fund the force at that level have not been announced.
Even the $4.1 billion figure was considered difficult to raise. The GAO estimated in February 2013 that there was a $600 million per year discrepancy between allied donor pledges and the $1.3 billion requirement. The specific known yearly pledges have included Germany ($190 million per year), Britain ($110 million per year), and Australia ($100 million per year). Other countries that are confirmed to have made pledges, but of unspecified amounts, include Denmark, Italy, Estonia, and the Netherlands. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) issued an audit in October 2012 saying the Afghan government will have major difficulty meeting its obligations to fund the force as donor countries wind down their involvement. (45) According to a SIGAR audit (13-4), CSTC-A plans to provide about $1 billion directly to the Afghan government during 2013-2019 to pay for fuel for the ANSF.
The U.S. costs to train and equip the ANSF are provided in the aid table at the end of this paper. As of FY2005, the security forces funding has been DOD funds, not State Department funds (Foreign Military Financing, FMF).
NATO Trust Fund for the ANA
In 2007 ISAF set up a trust fund for donor contributions to fund the transportation of equipment donated to and the training of the ANA; the mandate was expanded in 2009 to include sustainment costs. In November 2010 a further expansion was agreed on to support literacy training for the ANA. As of March 2014, donor contributions and pledges to the ANA Trust Fund total about $855 million. U.S. funding for the ANA is provided separately, not through this fund.
Law and Order Trust Fund for the ANP
There is also a separate "Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan" (LOTFA), run by the U.N. Development Program (UNDP), which is used to pay the salaries of the ANP and other police-related functions. The United States donates to that fund, for the purpose of paying ANP salaries and food costs. From 2002 to 2012, donors contributed $2.75 billion to the Fund, of which the United States contributed about $1 billion. Japan's 2009 pledge to pay the expenses of the Afghan police for at least six months (about $125 million for each six month period) is implemented through the LOTF. The EU pledged $175 million for the fund from January 2011 to March 2013. South Korea contributes about $100 million per year to the fund.
In May 2012, there were reports of misfeasance at the fund. UNDP began to investigate the allegations and immediately terminated the contracts of three personnel and placed two others on administrative leave. UNDP is continuing to investigate the issue.
Other Bilateral Donations
The DOD reports discuss other bilateral donations to the ANSF, both in funds and in arms and equipment donations. There is a "NATO Equipment Donation Program," through which donor countries supply the ANSF with equipment. Since 2002, about $2.9 billion in assistance to the ANSF has come from these sources.
There is also a NATO-Russia Council Helicopter Maintenance Trust Fund. Launched in March 2011, this fund provides maintenance and repair capacity to the Afghan Air Force helicopter fleet, much of which is Russian-made.
The Afghan National Army (ANA)
The Afghan National Army has been built "from scratch" since 2002--it is not a direct continuation of the national army that existed from the 1880s until the Taliban era. That army disintegrated entirely during the 1992-1996 mujahedin civil war and the 1996-2001 Taliban period. Some officers who served prior to the Taliban have joined the ANA.
The ANA now plans and leads almost all combat operations--including many completely on its own with no U.S. or international input. The commando forces of the ANA, trained by U.S. Special Operations Forces, and numbering about 5,300, are considered well-trained and are taking the lead in some operations against high-value targets.
There is a problem of absenteeism within the ANA because soldiers do not serve in their provinces of residence. Many in the ANA take long trips to their home towns to remit funds to their families, and often then return to the ANA after a long absence. However, that problem has eased somewhat in recent years because almost all of the ANA is now paid electronically. The FY2005 foreign aid appropriation (P.L. 108-447) required that ANA recruits be vetted for terrorism, human rights violations, and drug trafficking.
To assist its performance, the United States is attempting to better equip the ANA. Approximately $2.7 billion worth of vehicles, weapons, equipment, and aircraft were provided during August 2011-March 2012. The United States is also helping the ANSF build up an indigenous weapons production capability. However, in line with U.S. efforts to cut costs for the ANSF, the Defense Department reportedly plans shifted in 2013 from providing new equipment to maintaining existing equipment.
The United States has built five ANA bases: Herat (Corps 207), Gardez (Corps 203), Qandahar (Corps 205), Mazar-e-Sharif (Corps 209), and Kabul (Division HQ, Corps 201, Air Corps). Coalition officers conduct heavy weapons training for a heavy brigade as part of the "Kabul Corps," based in Pol-e-Charki, east of Kabul. U.S. funds are being used to construct a new Defense Ministry headquarters in Kabul at a cost of about $92 million.
Afghan Air Force
Equipment, maintenance, and logistical difficulties continue to plague the Afghan Air Force, and it remains mostly a support force for ground operations rather than a combat-oriented force. However, the Afghan Air Force has been able to make ANA units nearly self-sufficient in airlift. The force is a carryover from the Afghan Air Force that existed prior to the Soviet invasion, and is expanding gradually after its equipment was virtually eliminated in the 2001-2002 U.S. combat against the Taliban regime. It has about 6,300 personnel of a target size of about 8,000 by 2016. There are five female Afghan Air Force personnel; four arrived in the United States in July 2011 for training as military helicopter pilots.
The Afghan Air Force has about 100 aircraft including gunship, attack, and transport helicopters--of a planned fleet of 140 aircraft. Because the Afghan Air Force has familiarity with Russian helicopters and other equipment, the post-2014 Afghan Air Force is adding to its inventory of about 60 Mi-17 helicopters. Defense Department officials planned to buy the force another 45 Mi-17 helicopters, via the Russian state-owned Rosoboronexport arms sales agency at a cost of about $572 million and delivery by the end of 2014. However, separate House and Senate letters to the Administration, with a total of nearly 100 Member signers, called on the Defense Department to cancel the purchase because Rosoboronexport is the top supplier to the government of President Bashar Al Assad of Syria. Perhaps in response, DOD announced in November 2013 that it would not buy the 15 Mi-17s slated to be bought in FY2014, but would go ahead with the buy of 30 Mi-17s that used FY2013 funds. (46)
Among other U.S.-funded purchases, the Brazilian firm Embraer has been contracted by DOD to provide 20 Super Tucano turboprop aircraft to the force. U.S. plans do not include supply of fixed-wing combat aircraft such as F-16s, which Afghanistan wants as part of a broader request for the United States to augment Afghan air capabilities, according to U.S. military officials. There is a concern that Afghanistan will not soon have the capability to sustain operations of an aircraft as sophisticated as the F-16.
Afghanistan also is seeking the return of 26 aircraft, including some MiG-2s that were flown to safety in Pakistan and Uzbekistan during the past conflicts in Afghanistan. In 2010, Russia and Germany supplied MI-8 helicopters to the Afghan Air Force.
Afghan National Police (ANP)
U.S. and Afghan officials believe that building up a credible and capable national police force is at least as important to combating the insurgency as building the ANA. The DOD reports on Afghanistan contain substantial detail on U.S.-led efforts to continue what it says are "significant strides [that] have been made in professionalizing the ANP." However, many outside assessments of the ANP are disparaging, asserting that there is rampant corruption to the point where citizens mistrust and fear the ANP. Among other criticisms are a desertion rate far higher than that of the ANA; substantial illiteracy; involvement in local factional or ethnic disputes because the ANP works in the communities its personnel come from; and widespread use of drugs. It is this view that has led to consideration of stepped up efforts to promote local security solutions such as those discussed above. About 2,000 ANP are women, and on January 16, 2014--for the first time--a woman was appointed as a district police commander.
The United States and Afghanistan have worked to correct long-standing deficiencies. Some U.S. commanders credit a November 2009 doubling of police salaries (to $240 per month for service in high combat areas), and the streamlining and improvement of the payments system for the ANP, with reducing the solicitation of bribes by the ANP. The raise also stimulated an eightfold increase in recruitment. Others note the success, thus far, of efforts to pay police directly (and avoid skimming by commanders) through cell phone-based banking relationships (E-Paisa, run by Roshan cell network).
The ANP is increasingly being provided with heavy weapons and now have about 5,000 armored vehicles countrywide. Still, most police units lack adequate ammunition and vehicles. In some cases, equipment requisitioned by their commanders is being sold and the funds pocketed by the police officers.
A component of the ANP is the Afghan National Civil Order Police (ANCOP). As of mid-2014, the ANCOP force, which numbers over 14,000, is used to clear areas during counterinsurgency operations. The ANCOP force is considered effective because it deploys nationally and is less susceptible to local power brokers than are other ANP units.
The U.S. police training effort was first led by State Department/INL, but DOD took over the lead in police training in April 2005. A number of early support programs, such as the auxiliary police program attempted during 2005, were discarded as ineffective. It was replaced during 2007-2011 with the "focused district development" program in which a district police force was taken out and retrained, its duties temporarily performed by more highly trained ANCOP. Police training includes instruction in human rights principles and democratic policing concepts, and the State Department human rights report on Afghanistan, referenced above, says the government and observers are increasingly monitoring the police force to prevent abuses.
Supplements to the National Police: Afghan Local Police (ALP) and Other Local Forces
In 2008, the failure of several police training efforts led to a decision to develop local forces to protect their communities. Until then, U.S. military commanders opposed assisting local militias anywhere in Afghanistan for fear of re-creating militias that commit abuses and administer arbitrary justice. However, the urgent security needs in Afghanistan caused General Petraeus and his successors to expand local security experiments, based on successful experiences in Iraq and after designing mechanisms to place them firmly under Afghan government (mainly Ministry of Interior) control. Among these initiatives are the following:
* Village Stability Operations/Afghan Local Police (ALP). The Village Stability Operations (VSO) concept began in February 2010 in Arghandab district of Qandahar Province when U.S. Special Operations Forces organized about 25 villagers into an armed neighborhood watch group. The pilot program was expanded into a joint Afghan-U.S. Special Operations effort in which 12-person teams from these forces lived in communities to help improve governance, security, and development. An outgrowth of the VSO was the Afghan Local Police (ALP) program in which the U.S. Special Operations Forces set up and trained local security organs of about 300 members each. These local units are under the control of district police chiefs and each fighter is vetted by a local shura as well as Afghan intelligence. The latest DOD report says there are about 26,600 ALP now operating nationwide. However, the ALP program has been cited by Human Rights Watch and other human rights groups for killings, rapes, arbitrary detentions, and land grabs. The allegations triggered a U.S. military investigation that substantiated many of those findings, although not the most serious of the allegations. (47) In May 2012, Karzai ordered one ALP unit in Konduz disbanded because of its alleged involvement in a rape there.
* The ALP initiative was also adapted from another program, begun in 2008, termed the "Afghan Provincial Protection Program" (APPP, commonly called "AP3"), funded with DOD (CERP) funds. The APPP got underway in Wardak Province (Jalrez district) in early 2009 with 100 in May 2009. It was subsequently expanded to 1,200 personnel. U.S. commanders said no U.S. weapons were supplied to the militias, but the Afghan government provided weapons (Kalashnikov rifles) to the recruits, possibly using U.S. funds. Participants in the program were given $200 per month.
* Afghan Public Protection Force. This force, which operates as a "state-owned enterprise" (a business) but under the supervision of the Ministry of Interior, guards sites and convoys. It was formed to implement Karzai's August 17, 2010, decree (No. 62) that private security contractor forces be disbanded and their functions performed by official Afghan government forces by March 20, 2012. That deadline was extended to March 2013 because of the slow pace of standing up the new protection force, and some development organizations continued to use locally hired guard forces. The unit has begun operations to secure supply convoys and sites, and now numbers about 22,000 personnel guarding nearly 150 sites. Observers reported in late August 2013 that the APPF was nearly insolvent because of corruption and mismanagement, and in February 2014 the Afghan government decided to end its "state-owned enterprise" status and fold the unit into the Ministry of Interior.
The local security experiments to date resemble but technically are not arbokai, which are private tribal militias. Some believe that the arbokai concept should be revived as a means of securing Afghanistan, as the arbokai did during the reign of Zahir Shah and in prior pre-Communist eras. Reports persist that some tribal groupings have formed arbokai without specific authorization.
The local security programs discussed above somewhat reverse the 2002-2007 efforts to disarm local sources of armed force. And, as noted in several DOD reports on Afghan stability, there have sometimes been clashes and disputes between the local security units and the ANSF units, particularly in cases where the units are of different ethnicities. These are the types of difficulties that prompted earlier efforts to disarm local militia forces, as discussed below.
DDR. The main program, run by UNAMA, was called the "DDR" program--Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration--and it formally concluded on June 30, 2006. The program got off to a slow start because the Afghan Defense Ministry did not reduce the percentage of Tajiks in senior positions by a July 1, 2003, target date, dampening Pashtun recruitment. In September 2003, Karzai replaced 22 senior Tajiks in the Defense Ministry officials with Pashtuns, Uzbeks, and Hazaras, enabling DDR to proceed. The major donor for the program was Japan, which contributed about $140 million.
The DDR program was initially expected to demobilize 100,000 fighters, although that figure was later reduced. Of those demobilized, 55,800 former fighters exercised reintegration options provided by the program: starting small businesses, farming, and other options. Some studies criticized the DDR program for failing to prevent a certain amount of rearmament of militiamen or stockpiling of weapons and for the rehiring of some militiamen. (48) Part of the DDR program was the collection and cantonment of militia weapons, but generally only poor-quality weapons were collected.
DIAG. After June 2005, the disarmament effort emphasized another program called "DIAG"--Disbandment of Illegal Armed Groups, run by the Afghan Disarmament and Reintegration Commission, headed by Vice President Khalili. The effort was intended to disarm as many as 150,000 members of 1,800 different "illegal armed groups" - militiamen that were not part of recognized local forces (Afghan Military Forces, AMF) and were never on the rolls of the Defense Ministry. Under the DIAG, no payments were made to fighters, and the program depended on persuasion rather than use of force against the illegal groups. DIAG was not as well funded as was DDR, receiving $11 million in operating funds. As an incentive, Japan and other donors offered $35 million for development projects where illegal groups have disbanded. The goals of DIAG were not met in part because armed groups in the south said they need to remain armed against the Taliban. UNAMA reported in a March 9, 2011, report that 100 out of 140 districts planned for DIAG are considered "DIAG compliant."
Rule of Law/Criminal Justice Sector
Many experts believe that an effective justice sector is vital to Afghan governance. Some of the criticisms and allegations of corruption at all levels of the Afghan bureaucracy have been discussed throughout this report. U.S. justice sector programs generally focus on promoting rule of law and building capacity of the judicial system, including police training and court construction. The rule of law issue is covered in CRS Report RS21922, Afghanistan: Politics, Elections, and Government Performance, and CRS Report R41484, Afghanistan: U.S. Rule of Law and Justice Sector Assistance.
Policy Component: Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs)
U.S. and partner officials have praised the effectiveness of "Provincial Reconstruction Teams" (PRTs)--enclaves of U.S. or partner forces and civilian officials that provide safe havens for international aid workers to help with reconstruction and to extend the writ of the Kabul government. The PRTs, the concept for which was announced in December 2002, have performed activities ranging from resolving local disputes to coordinating local reconstruction projects, although most U.S.-run PRTs and most PRTs in combat-heavy areas focused on counterinsurgency. Many of the additional U.S. civilian officials deployed to Afghanistan during 2009 and 2010 were based at PRTs, which have facilities, vehicles, and security. Some aid agencies say they felt more secure since the PRT program began, (49) but several relief groups did not want to associate with military forces because doing so might taint their perceived neutrality.
Virtually all the PRTs, listed in Table 15, were placed under the ISAF mission. Each PRT operated by the United States has had U.S. forces to train Afghan security forces; DOD civil affairs officers; representatives of USAID, State Department, and other agencies; and Afghan government (Interior Ministry) personnel. USAID officers assigned to the PRTs administer PRT reconstruction projects. USAID spending on PRT projects is in the table at the end of this report.
Despite the benefits, President Karzai consistently criticized the PRTs as holding back Afghan capacity-building and repeatedly called for their abolition as "parallel governing structures." USAID observers backed some of the criticism, saying that there was little Afghan input into PRT development project decision-making or as contractors for PRT-funded construction. To address this criticism, during 2008-2012 some donor countries, including the United States, enhanced the civilian diplomatic and development component of the PRTs to try to change their image from military institutions.
The May 20-21, 2012, NATO summit in Chicago expressed agreement to phase out the PRTs by the end of 2014. Karzai's July 26, 2012, administrative reforms called on the Afghan government to beginning planning to assume their functions. As of December 1, 2013, 12 PRTs have been transferred to Afghan control, and the remaining 16 are to be transferred by the end of 2014. Related U.S.-led structures such as District Support Teams (DSTs), which help district officials provide government services, are to close by the end of 2014 as well.
Cooperation With Allies
Partner forces have been key to the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. Since 2006, the vast bulk of all U.S. troops in Afghanistan have served in the NATO-led "International Security Assistance Force" (ISAF). ISAF consists of all 28 NATO members states plus partner countries--a total of 50 countries including the United States. Since the transition to Afghan security leadership began in July 2011, U.S. officials have, to a large extent, prevented a "rush to the exits" by partner forces--partner drawdowns have occurred at roughly the same rate and proportion as the U.S. drawdown, despite public pressure in Europe to end or reduce their military involvement in Afghanistan. Still, during 2010-2012, the Netherlands, Canada, and France respectively, ended their combat missions, although they continue to furnish trainers for the ANSF. South Korea ended its security mission in Parwan Province, in and around Bagram Airfield, in June 2014, although its hospital and civilian development experts will remain until at least 2016.
Partner forces that continue to conduct some combat in Afghanistan include Britain, Canada, Poland, Denmark, Romania, and Australia. Romania has permitted the use of its facilities to withdraw personnel and equipment as part of the international drawdown in 2014. Britain has removed about half of its peak 10,000 person contingent, which was based mostly in Helmand, but some British forces periodically have gone back into Helmand to deal with specific security setbacks. Poland said in mid-January 2014 that it would reduce its contingent from its current level of about 1,000 to 500 forces by May 2014.
A list of remaining partner forces is in Table 14 at the end of this report. Several partner countries have indicated they will contribute troops to the Resolute Support Mission, assuming that mission is implemented. Force pledges to Resolute Support are discussed in the section on the post-2014 residual force above.
Reintegration and Potential Reconciliation With Insurgents (51)
Some believe that there is substantial potential for a political settlement between insurgent leaders and the Afghan government and the reintegration of insurgent fighters into society. The prospects might have increased after the April 5, 2014, presidential election in Afghanistan, in which voters mostly ignored or defied Taliban threats of violence and election day violence was minimal. However, reconciliation might involve compromises that could produce backsliding on human rights; most insurgents are highly conservative Islamists who seek strict limitations on women's rights. Many leaders of ethnic minorities believe that reconciliation and reintegration might further Pashtun political strength within Afghanistan, and enhance Pakistani influence. The United States and the Afghan government stipulate that any settlement require insurgent leaders, as an outcome, (52) to (1) cease fighting, (2) accept the Afghan constitution, and (3) sever any ties to Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups.
The concept of providing incentives to persuade insurgents to surrender and reenter their communities has received at least some U.S. and Afghan attention since 2002. The elements included in a formal reintegration plan drafted by the Afghan government and adopted by a "peace loya jirga" during June 2-4, 2010, (53) included providing surrendering fighters with jobs, amnesty, protection, and an opportunity to be part of the security architecture for their communities. Later in June 2010, President Karzai issued a decree to implement the plan, which includes efforts by Afghan local leaders to convince insurgents to reintegrate, and UNAMA said in its December 6, 2013, that local civil society-sponsored meetings called the "Afghan People's Dialogue on Peace," intended to promote peace and reconciliation, have been expanding.
According to the November 2013 DOD report, about 7,800 fighters have been reintegrated. A majority of those reintegrated are from the north and west, with growing participation from militants in the more violent south and east. Some observers say there have been cases in which reintegrated fighters have committed human rights abuses against women and others, suggesting that the reintegration process might have unintended consequences.
The reintegration effort received formal international backing at the July 20, 2010, Kabul Conference. Britain, Japan, and several other countries, including the United States, have announced a total of about $235 million in donations to a fund to support the reintegration process, of which $134 million has been received. (54) The U.S. contribution to the program has been about $100 million (CERP funds). (55)
Previous efforts had marginal success. A "Program for Strengthening Peace and Reconciliation" (referred to in Afghanistan by its Pashto acronym "PTS") operated during 2003-2008, headed by thenMeshrano Jirga speaker Sibghatullah Mojadeddi and Vice President Karim Khalili, and overseen by Karzai's National Security Council. The program persuaded 9,000 Taliban figures and commanders to renounce violence and join the political process, but made little impact on the tenacity or strength of the insurgency.
Reconciliation With Militant Leaders
A related U.S. and Afghan initiative is to reach a conflict-ending settlement with the Taliban. The Obama Administration initially withheld endorsement of the concept on the grounds that it might lead to the incorporation into the Afghan political system of insurgent leaders who retain ties to Al Qaeda and would roll back freedoms. The minority communities in the north, women, intellectuals, and others remain skeptical that their freedoms can be preserved if there is a political settlement with the Taliban--a settlement that might involve Taliban figures obtaining ministerial posts, seats in parliament, or even control over territory. Then-Secretary of State Clinton said in India on July 20, 2011, that any settlement must not result in and undoing of "the progress that has been made [by women and ethnic minorities] in the past decade." To respond to those fears, Afghan and U.S. officials say that the outcome--but not the precondition--of a settlement would require the Taliban to drop demands that a new, "Islamic" constitution be adopted and Islamic law be imposed. On the other hand, Afghan officials have not ruled out amending the constitution to incorporate more Islamic tenets as part of a settlement.
An "Afghan High Peace Council" (HPC) intended to oversee the settlement process was established on September 5, 2010. Former President/Northern Alliance political leader Burhanuddin Rabbani was appointed by Karzai to head it, largely to gain Tajik and other Northern Alliance support for the concept. On September 20, 2011, Rabbani was assassinated by a Taliban infiltrator posing as an intermediary; on April 14, 2012, the HPC voted his son, Salahuddin, as his replacement.
During 2011, informal meetings among U.S., Taliban, and Afghan representatives proliferated, particularly in the form of U.S. meetings with Tayeb Agha, an aide to Mullah Umar. In December 2011, U.S. officials pursued confidence-building measures under which the Taliban would open a political office in Qatar; the United States would transfer five senior Taliban captives from the Guantanamo detention facility to a form of house arrest in Qatar; and the Taliban would release the one U.S. prisoner of war, it holds, Bowe Bergdahl. The United States also demanded a public Taliban statement severing its ties to Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups. The confidence-building measures were not implemented, and U.S.-Taliban talks broke off in March 2012 reportedly over Qatar's failure to assure the United States that released detainees would be able to escape custody.
The plan appeared to advance in 2013. On June 18, 2013, the Taliban opened the office in Qatar, simultaneously issuing a statement refusing future ties to international terrorist groups and expressing willingness to eventually transition to Afghan government-Taliban talks. However, the Taliban violated understandings with the United States and Qatar by raising a flag of the former Taliban regime and calling the facility the office of the "Islamic Emirate" of Afghanistan--the name the Taliban regime gave for Afghanistan during its rule. These actions prompted U.S. officials, through Qatar, to compel the Taliban to close the office. However, the Taliban officials remained in Qatar, and indirect U.S.-Taliban talks through Qatari mediation revived in mid-2014. These indirect talks led to the May 31, 2014, exchange of Bergdahl for the release to Qatar of the five Taliban figures, with the stipulation that they cannot travel outside Qatar for at least one year. The five released, and their positions during the Taliban's period of rule: were Mullah Mohammad Fazl, the chief of staff of the Taliban's military; Noorullah Noori, the Taliban commander in northern Afghanistan; Khairullah Khairkhwa, the Taliban regime Interior Minister; Mohammad Nabi Omari, a Taliban official; and Abdul Haq Wasiq, the Taliban regime's deputy intelligence chief.
In addition to U.S.-Taliban discussions, there have been exchanges between Taliban representatives and the Afghan government. In June 2012, Afghan government officials and Taliban representatives held talks at two meetings--one in Paris, and one an academic conference in Kyoto, Japan. Meetings that were potentially even more significant took place between senior Taliban figures and members of the Northern Alliance faction in France (December 20-21, 2012). The meeting in France reportedly included submission by the Taliban of a political platform that signaled acceptance of some aspects of human rights and women's rights provisions of the current constitution.56 A statement by Mullah Omar in August 2013 said the Taliban no longer seeks a monopoly of power but rather an "inclusive" government, and backs modern education. And, perhaps reflecting divisions among insurgents, the insurgent faction of Gulbuddin Hikmatyar permitted its followers in Afghanistan to vote in the April 2014 presidential and provincial elections. In February 2014, it was reported that Karzai had been engaged in further talks with Taliban representatives, although some accounts said the talks made no progress. (57) Others say that some Karzai actions, such as condemning the February 2014 killing in Pakistan of prominent Taliban commander Mullah Abdul Raqib and refusing to sign the BSA, were intended to win Taliban favor--a policy many U.S. and Afghan officials say is naive and misguided.
Previous talks between Afghan government figures and the Taliban have taken place primarily in Saudi Arabia and UAE. Press reports said that talks took place among Karzai's brother, Qayyum; Arsala Rahmani, a former Taliban official who reconciled and entered the Afghan parliament but was assassinated in May 2012; and the former Taliban Ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef, who purportedly is in touch with Umar's inner circle. Some of these same Taliban representatives may be involved in the ongoing talks referred to above. Some Taliban sympathizers reportedly attended the June 2-4, 2010, consultative peace jirga.
Role of Pakistan. Pakistan has also become more outwardly supportive of the reconciliation process, although experts still doubt Pakistan's true intentions for Afghanistan, as discussed below. In February 2012, Pakistani leaders, for the first time, publicly encouraged Taliban leaders to negotiate a settlement to the conflict. Following a November 2012 visit to Pakistan by Rabbani and other High Peace Council members, Pakistan released at least 26 high-ranking Taliban figures who favor reconciliation. Karzai visited Pakistan during August 26-27, 2013, and, 10 days later, Pakistan released another seven moderate senior Taliban figures. On September 22, 2013, it released from prison the highest-profile Taliban figure in detention, Mullah Abdul Ghani Bradar, (58) who had been arrested by Pakistan in February 2010, purportedly to halt talks between Bradar and Afghan intermediaries. Bradar reportedly remains under house arrest or close surveillance in Pakistan. Earlier, in August 2012, Pakistan had allowed Afghan officials to hold talks with the incarcerated Bradar.
Removing Taliban Figures From U.N. Sanctions Lists. A key Taliban demand in negotiations is the removal of the names of some Taliban figures from U.N. lists of terrorists. These lists were established pursuant to Resolution 1267 and Resolution 1333 (October 15, 1999, and December 19, 2000, both pre-September 11 sanctions against the Taliban and Al Qaeda) and Resolution 1390 (January 16, 2002). The Afghan government has submitted a list of 50 Taliban figures it wants taken off the list, which includes about 140 Taliban-related persons or entities. On January 26, 2010, Russia, previously a hold-out against such a process, dropped opposition to removing five Taliban-era figures from these sanctions lists, paving the way for their de-listing: those removed included Taliban-era foreign minister Wakil Mutawwakil and representative to the United States Abdul Hakim Mujahid. Mujahid is now deputy chair of the High Peace Council.
On June 17, 2011, in concert with U.S. confirmations of talks with Taliban figures, the U.N. Security Council adopted Resolution 1988 and 1989. The resolutions drew a separation between the Taliban and Al Qaeda with regard to the sanctions. However, a decision on whether to remove the 50 Taliban figures from the list, as suggested by Afghanistan, was deferred. On July 21, 2011, 14 Taliban figures were removed from the "1267" sanctions list; among them were four members of the High Peace Council (including Arsala Rahmani, mentioned above).
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|Title Annotation:||p. 1-41|
|Publication:||Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports and Issue Briefs|
|Date:||Jul 1, 2014|
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