Afghanistan: Background and U.S. Policy

 

In light of the approaching withdrawal deadline and the stalling of intra-Afghan talks, the United States appears to have intensified its efforts to broker an intra-Afghan agreement. Secretary of State Antony Blinken reportedly wrote to Afghan government officials in March 2021 to express “urgency” that they form a united front and participate in planned multilateral diplomatic efforts, including talks in Turkey in April 2021. The United States also reportedly produced a draft peace agreement to “jumpstart” negotiations that includes a variety of options, including the establishment of an interim “transitional” government, which Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has rejected. Observers speculate about what kind of political arrangement, if any, could satisfy both the elected Afghan government and the Taliban to the extent that the latter fully abandons armed struggle. Future political arrangements and/or changes in the security environment may in turn influence U.S. policymakers’ consideration of future levels and conditions of development assistance. Given the outsized role that U.S. support plays in bolstering the Afghan government, many experts warn that a full-scale U.S. withdrawal and/or aid cutoff could lead to its collapse and perhaps even to the reestablishment of formal Taliban rule over some or all of the country. By many measures, the Taliban are in a stronger military position now than at any point since 2001, though many once-public metrics related to the conduct of the war have been classified or are no longer produced. Some Afghan officials reportedly suspect the Taliban of remaining in negotiations long enough to secure a full U.S. withdrawal, after which the Taliban would capitalize on their advantage on the battlefield to seize control of the country by force.     Purchase this Volume