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CRS – Afghanistan: Post-Taliban Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy

Afghanistan: Post-Taliban Governance, Security, and U.S. Policy, updated May 19, 2017. [Via FAS]

“The United States, partner countries, and the Afghan government are attempting to reverse recent gains made by the resilient Taliban-led insurgency since the December 2014transition to a smaller international mission consisting primarily of training and advising the Afghanistan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF). The Afghan government has come under increasing domestic criticism not only for failing to prevent insurgent gains but also for its internal divisions. In September 2014, the United States brokered a compromise to address a dispute over the 2014 presidential election, but a September 2016 deadline was not met for enacting election reforms and deciding whether to elevate the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) position to a prime ministership. The progress of the Afghan government in reducing corruption and implementing its budgetary and other commitments was assessed by an international meeting on Afghanistan during October 4-5, in Brussels, as sufficient to merit continued international assistance. The government has adopted measures that would enable it to proceed with new parliamentary elections, but no election date has been set. The number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, which peaked at about 100,000 in 2011, is about 9,800, of which most are assigned to the 13,000-person NATO-led “Resolute Support Mission” (RSM) that trains, assists, and advises the ANDSF. About 2,000 of the U.S. contingent are involved in combat against Al Qaeda and associated terrorist groups, including the Afghanistan branch of the Islamic State organization (ISIL-Khorasan), under “Operation Freedom’s Sentinel” (OFS). Amid assessments that the ANDSF is having difficulty preventing insurgent gains, in June 2016 President Obama amended prior troop reduction plans in order to keep 9,800 U.S. forces there through 2016, and to decrease to 8,400 as of the beginning of 2017. That replaced a plan to reduce the force to 5,500 by the end of 2016, which in turn superseded a 2011 plan to reduce to about 1,000 U.S. personnel by that same time frame. However, in the early stages of the Trump Administration, U.S. commanders assess that about 3,000-5,000 more U.S. forces are required to help Afghan forces break a “stalemate” in combat against insurgent groups. U.S. officials assert that insurgents control or contest about 40% of Afghan territory, but still are not positioned to overturn the government. In May 2016, the vulnerabilities of the Taliban were exposed when the United States tracked and killed with an unmanned aerial vehicle strike the head of the Taliban, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour. However, the successor Taliban leadership has continued to produce battlefield gains and rejects new settlement talks with the government. One small insurgent group reached a settlement with the government in late September 2016, but the agreement has not, to date, broadened to other groups. Afghanistan’s minorities and women’s groups assert concerns that a settlement with the Taliban might erode post-2001 human rights gains. A component of U.S. policy to help establish a self-sustaining Afghanistan is to encourage economic development and integration into regional trading patterns. However, Afghanistan will remain dependent on foreign aid for many years. Through the end of FY2014, the United States provided about $100 billion to Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban, of which about 60% has been to equip and train the ANDSF.About $5.7 billion was provided in FY2015, including $4.1 billion for the ANDSF and, for FY2016, $5.3 billion, including $3.8 billion for the ANDSF. The FY2017 appropriation for the ANDSF is $4.2 billion; allocations to Afghanistan from economic assistance account appropriations have not yet been finalized. These figures do not include funds for U.S. military operations in Afghanistan.”

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