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Post-Taliban Governance, Security, & U.S. Policy

Kenneth Katzman

Congressional Research Service Report RL 30588

The current international security mission terminates at the end of 2014 and will likely transition to a smaller mission consisting mostly of training the Afghanistan National Security Forces (ANSF). The “residual force” that will likely remain in Afghanistan after 2014 is expected to consist of about 6,000-10,000 U.S. trainers and counterterrorism forces, assisted by about 5,000 partner forces performing similar missions. The U.S. troops that remain after 2014 would do so under a U.S.-Afghanistan security agreement that has been negotiated but which President Hamid Karzai, despite significant Afghan public and elite backing for the agreement, refuses to sign until additional conditions he has set down are met.

 Fearing instability after 2014, some ethnic and political faction leaders are reviving their militia forces should the international drawdown lead to a major Taliban push to retake power. No matter the size of an international residual force, some in the Administration remain concerned that Afghan stability after 2014 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. Yet, negotiations have been sporadic, and U.S.-Taliban discussions that were expected to begin after the Taliban opened a political office in Qatar in June 2013 did not materialize. 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, increasingly delegating project implementation to the Afghan government. U.S. officials assert that Afghanistan might be able to exploit vast mineral and agricultural resources, as well as its potentially significant hydrocarbon resources, to prevent a major economic downturn as international donors scale back their involvement. Even if these efforts succeed, Afghanistan will likely remain dependent on foreign aid indefinitely.  The anticipated U.S. aid for FY2014 is over $10 billion, including $7.7 billion to train and equip the ANSF. Administration officials have said that economic aid requests for Afghanistan are likely to continue roughly at recent levels through at least FY2017.