War in Afghanistan: Strategy, Operations, andIssues for CongressCatherine DaleSpecialist in International SecurityMarch 9, 2011Congressional Research Report for CongressPrepared for Members and Committees of Congress

War in Afghanistan: Strategy, Operations, and Issues for CongressSummaryIn the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States launched and ledmilitary operations in Afghanistan in order to end the ability of the Taliban regime to provide safehaven to al Qaeda and to put a stop to al Qaeda’s use of the territory of Afghanistan as a base ofoperations for terrorist activities. Many observers argue that in succeeding years, as U.S. andworld attention shifted sharply to the war in Iraq, the Afghan war became the “other war” andsuffered from neglect. The Obama Administration, however, has made the war in Afghanistan ahigher priority, by giving it early attention, regularly conducting strategy reviews, and makingsignificant additional commitments of civilian and military resources. By early 2011, seniorleaders, including the Commander of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF),General David Petraeus, were pointing to discrete progress on the ground, though noting that suchprogress was still “fragile and reversible.”In late 2010, NATO and the Afghan government agreed to pursue a key medium-term goal: thetransition of lead responsibility for security to Afghans throughout the country by the end of2014. The U.S. government has stated its intention to begin drawing down some U.S. forces fromAfghanistan in July 2011, and also to maintain a long-term strategic partnership with Afghanistanbeyond 2014.Strategic vision for Afghanistan is still, many would argue, a work in progress. President Karzaihas consistently stressed the theme of “Afghan leadership, Afghan ownership.” President Obamahas consistently stressed the core goals of the United States: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat alQaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to prevent their return. Yet for the U.S. government,fundamental issues remain unresolved. These include determining the minimum essential conditions required for Afghanistan itself tobe able to sustain stability with relatively limited international support; defining the appropriate combination of U.S. efforts, together with otherinternational resources, over time, required to achieve those minimumconditions; and balancing U.S. national security interests in Afghanistan and the region againstother imperatives, in a constrained fiscal environment.This report, which will be updated as events warrant, describes and analyzes the key players in the war in Afghanistan; the strategic outlooks of the Afghan government, the U.S. government, andNATO; the threats to the security and stability of the Afghan state and its people; the major facets of the current effort: security, governance and anti-corruption,development, reconciliation and reintegration, and transition; mechanisms in place to measure progress; and critical issues that Congress may wish to consider further.Congressional Research Service

War in Afghanistan: Strategy, Operations, and Issues for CongressContentsOverview .1Major Stakeholders .1Current Dynamics .1Key Debates.2Origins of the War.3Prelude to War .3Major Combat Operations .4Post-Taliban Developments .5Bonn Process .5The Afghan People in Post-Taliban Afghanistan .5Strategy .6Afghan Strategy .6U.S. Strategy.7Post-9/11 Aims.7Bush Administration Strategy.7Obama Administration Strategy.8COMISAF Initial Assessment .8Fall 2009 Strategy Review .9December 2010 Afghanistan Pakistan Annual Review . 10U.S. Strategy in 2011 . 11NATO Strategy . 11The Threat . 12The Insurgencies . 13Current Security Conditions . 13Taliban. 14Haqqani Network. 15Hezb-i-Islami Gulbuddin (HiG). 15“Criminal Patronage Networks” . 16Kabul Bank and National-Level Institutions . 16Sub-National-Level Powerbrokers. 17Ahmed Wali Karzai. 17General Abdul Razziq . 18Governor Gul Agha Sherzai . 18International Community Practices. 19Structure of the International Effort . 20Leadership of the Effort . 20Lead Nation Model . 20Afghanistan Compact and UNAMA. 20Kabul Process . 21NATO . 22ISAF Creation and Legal Basis for Presence . 22ISAF Mandate. 22ISAF Geographic Expansion through Stages . 23ISAF Organization . 23ISAF Joint Command (IJC). 23Congressional Research Service

War in Afghanistan: Strategy, Operations, and Issues for CongressNATO Training Mission-Afghanistan (NTM-A) . 24Regional Commands . 24ISAF Troop Contributors. 24National Caveats . 25Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) . 25NATO Senior Civilian Representative . 26U.S. Presence. 27U.S. Forces . 27U.S. Troop Numbers . 28Legal Basis for U.S. Force Presence. 29U.S. Government Civilians. 30Civilian “Surge”. 30Senior Civilian Representatives. 31U.S. Civil-Military Integration . 32Civil-Military Integration Versus Division of Labor. 32Structure for Integration and Decision-Making . 33Civil-Military Planning . 34The Campaign. 34Operation Omid . 35Planning and Participation in Operation Omid. 35Operation Moshtarek. 35Operation Hamkari . 36Winter Campaign and 2011 Operations . 37Timelines and Transition . 37President Karzai’s Support for Transition . 38Elaboration and Approval of the Transition Concept. 38Transition Decisions. 39Security Efforts. 39Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) . 40ANSF Target Endstrengths . 40Command and Control . 42Training the ANSF . 42Partnering with the ANSF . 44Operational Effectiveness. 45Afghan Local Police. 47Counter-Terrorism Activities . 49Civilian Casualties: Afghan Concerns, ISAF Tactical Directives. 49Cooperation with Pakistan. 50Pakistan’s Border Challenge. 51U.S. Strategy and Policy. 52U.S. Drone Strikes . 52Tactical- and Operational-Level Cooperation. 53Governance and Anti-Corruption Efforts . 54Capacity-Building. 56Human Capital. 56Sub-National-Level Capacity-Building. 57Accountability—Afghan and International . 57Appointments and Removals. 58Shuras (Councils). 60“Supporting GIRoA”. 62Congressional Research Service

War in Afghanistan: Strategy, Operations, and Issues for CongressChanging International Community Practices . 63Development Efforts . 63Integration of Development Efforts . 64Afghanistan’s Future Economy: Opportunities and Requirements. 65Development Efforts at the Sub-National Level. 66Development and Patronage Networks . 67Reintegration and Reconciliation Efforts . 68Afghan Government Views . 68U.S. Government Views . 69National Consultative Peace Jirga and High Peace Council. 69Afghan Peace and Reintegration Program . 69Reconciliation Process . 70Metrics . 72“1230” Reports on Security and Stability in Afghanistan . 72National Security Council “Metrics” Reports . 73Afghanistan and Pakistan Annual Review . 74Issues for Congress . 75“Success” in Afghanistan . 75Reconciliation. 76Governance and Corruption . 77Transition. 77Afghan National Security Forces. 78Afghan Local Police. 78U.S. Troop Drawdowns. 79Long-Term Strategic Partnership . 80Economic Strategy . 80Safe Havens in Pakistan . 81Implications for NATO. 81Implications for U.S. Force Sizing. 82Implications for Caring for Returning Veterans. 82Implications for U.S. Civ-Mil Integration. 82Additional Reports . 83FiguresFigure 1. Map of Afghanistan. 84ContactsAuthor Contact Information . 84Congressional Research Service

War in Afghanistan: Strategy, Operations, and Issues for CongressOverviewThe war in Afghanistan began with a U.S.-led military response to the terrorist attacks ofSeptember 11, 2001, designed to remove the Taliban-led regime and prevent future terrorist safehavens. The war, currently in its 10th year, is now a multi-faceted joint, civil-military, combinedcampaign, including a NATO-led military effort and substantial multi-lateral and bilateral civilianinitiatives, broadly aimed at ending the insurgent threat to the Afghan government and helping theAfghan people lay the foundations for lasting stability.Major StakeholdersFor the government of Afghanistan, the war is first of all an existential struggle for survivalagainst the Taliban and other insurgents, as well as a longer-term effort to establish sustainablesecurity and stability.For the Afghan people, the war is only the latest proximate cause of instability and insecurity in30 years of conflict and dislocation. Their daily lives are shaped by the hardships of providing fortheir families in settings with very limited economic development and opportunity, intimidationin some areas from insurgent groups, and frustration with the limited capacity and, sometimes,corruption of official government structures.For the major insurgent groups, the war is about achieving some combination of political power,economic leverage, and radical Islamic cultural influence.For the U.S. government—which leads the international military effort, provides substantialcivilian expertise, and plays a significant role in shaping the overall strategic direction—the warin Afghanistan concerns helping ensure the security of both Afghanistan and the region, includingdenying safe haven to terrorists, in order to establish a stable regional security balance and protectU.S. national interests.For regional states, including India and Russia as well as Afghanistan’s immediate neighborsPakistan and Iran, the war is critical because it may have a powerful impact on both security andthe balance of power and influence in the region. Pakistan in particular, which willingly orotherwise provides safe haven to Afghan insurgent groups, has deeply vested interests in theoutcome of the conflict.For individual member states of the NATO Alliance, the war may be about some combination ofdefeating terrorist networks, ensuring regional stability, proving themselves as contributingNATO members, and demonstrating the relevance of the Alliance to 21st century global securitychallenges.Current DynamicsUnder the Obama Administration, the war in Afghanistan—after years of being perceived bymany as “the other war”—has become the focus of significantly greater leadership time andattention, and the recipient of significantly greater resources. The U.S. government’s core goalsCongressional Research Service1

War in Afghanistan: Strategy, Operations, and Issues for Congressfor the war have remained unchanged since March 2009: to disrupt, dismantle and defeat alQaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to prevent their return.1 In December 2009, following acomprehensive strategic review, President Obama announced two decisions: to “surge” bothmilitary and civilian personnel to Afghanistan, and to begin withdrawing U.S. forces fromAfghanistan, on a “conditions-based” basis, in July 2011.2In November 2010, at the NATO Lisbon Summit, the governments of the United States, the otherNATO Allies, and Afghanistan expressed support for the full transition of lead responsibility forsecurity to Afghans by the end of 2014. Allies also reaffirmed their “long-term commitment to abetter future for the Afghan people.”3 In December 2010, announcing the results of theAdministration’s Afghanistan Pakistan Annual Review, President Obama confirmed U.S.commitment to both transition by 2014 and a long-term U.S.-Afghan strategic partnership.4In early 2011, General David Petraeus, Commander of NATO’s International Security AssistanceForce (ISAF) in Afghanistan, in a letter to the ISAF troops, credited the hard work of the force,together with its Afghan partners, for “halting a downward security spiral in much of the countryand to reversing it in some areas of great importance.”5 In his December 2010 speech, PresidentObama recognized “considerable gains toward our military objectives,” but acknowledged thatthey were still “fragile and reversible.”6Key DebatesThe U.S. government continues to face major strategic and operational decisions about itsengagement in the war in Afghanistan. Elements of the debate that continue to attract attentioninclude refining U.S. national interests in Afghanistan and the region, and a desired endstate based on those interests; determining which diplomatic, economic, and military approaches to adopt, whatresources to commit to support those approaches, and how those approachesought to evolve over time;1See Remarks by the President on a New Strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, March 27, 2009, available at press for-Afghanistan-andPakistan/. See also Statement by the President on the Afghanistan-Pakistan Annual Review, December 16, 2010,available at lreview.2See Remarks by the President in Address to the Nation on the Way Forward in Afghanistan and Pakistan, December1, 2009, available at nd-pakistan.3Lisbon Summit Declaration, November 20, 2010, available at texts 68828.htm?mode pressrelease.4See Statement by the President on the Afghanistan-Pakistan Annual Review, December 16, 2010, available ual-review.5“COMISAF Assessment,” Letter to ISAF, January 25, 2011, available at See Statement by the President on the Afghanistan-Pakistan Annual Review, December 16, 2010, available ual-review.Congressional Research Service2

War in Afghanistan: Strategy, Operations, and Issues for Congress helping marshal a coordinated application of international efforts in Afghanistan;and prioritizing the Afghanistan war versus other U.S. national security imperativesin the context of a constrained fiscal environment.Avenues available to Congress for exercising oversight of these issues include authorizing andappropriating funding for U.S. efforts in Afghanistan and the region; shaping policy throughdirective legislation; confirming senior administration officials with responsibility for theAfghanistan effort; holding oversight hearings to assess policy formulation and execution; andextending or adjusting Administration reporting requirements.Origins of the WarWhile the proximate cause of the current war in Afghanistan was the set of terrorist attacks ofSeptember 11, 2001, the war takes place against the backdrop of three decades of tumultuousAfghan history including communist rule, the Soviet invasion, civil war, and the repressiveTaliban regime.Prelude to War7In December 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan to shore up a puppet communistregime. During the 1980’s, armed Afghan resistance groups known as mujahedin waged waragainst Soviet forces and their allies among the Afghan security forces.8 During that period, theU.S. government, through the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), provided covert assistance tomujahedin groups, working through Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI).In 1989, Soviet forces withdrew from Afghanistan, and in April 1992, the Soviet-backed Afghanregime in Kabul fell to mujahedin forces, which established a form of rule including a rotatingpresidency. In November 1994, the ethnic Pashtun-dominated Taliban movement led by MullahOmar seized the city of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan.9 In 1996, the Taliban captured Kabuland then retained control over much of the country until ousted by the U.S.-led military campaignin 2001. Throughout its tenure, the Taliban continued to face armed opposition, in particular fromthe Northern Alliance, a loose network dominated by ethnic Tajiks and Uzbeks primarily fromnorthern Afghanistan. Key legacies of Afghanistan’s years of civil war, conflict, and oppressive7For background see Steve Coll, Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from theSoviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 (New York: Penguin, 2004); George Crile, Charlie Wilson’s War: TheExtraordinary Story of How the Wildest Man in Congress and a Rogue CIA Agent Changed the History of our Times(New York: Grove Press, 2003); Robert D. Kaplan, Soldiers of God: With Islamic Warriors in Afghanistan andPakistan (New York: Vintage Departures, 2001); and Ahmed Rashid, Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil andFundamentalism in Central Asia (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2001).8The plural noun “mujahedin” (singular “mujahid”), borrowed from Arabic and now used in standard English, refers toa group of Muslims waging “jihad,” or “a holy war waged on behalf of Islam as a religious duty.” See “jihad,”Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary 2008, Merriam-Webster online, available at; and “mujahideen,” Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary 2008, Merriam-Webster online, available deen.9The term “Taliban,” in Pashto, is the plural of “talib” (student), which is derived from Arabic. See “Taliban,”Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary 2008, Merriam-Webster online, available at Congressional Research Service3

War in Afghanistan: Strategy, Operations, and Issues for Congressrule included the deaths of over a million people, the displacement of millions more, theproliferation of available weapons, and the destruction of key institutions and infrastructure.Major Combat OperationsThe immediate reason for U.S. military operations in Afghanistan was the linkage of theSeptember 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to al Qaeda, which had trained and operated under Talibanprotection in Afghanistan. In an address to a joint session of Congress on September 20, 2001,President George W. Bush stated U.S. demands for Taliban action, warning: “The Taliban mustact, and act immediately. They will hand over the terrorists or they will share in their fate.”10On October 7, 2001, following the refusal of the Taliban regime to cease harboring al Qaeda, theU.S. government launched military operations in Afghani

War in Afghanistan: Strategy, Operations, and Issues for Congress Congressional Research Service 1 Overview The war in Afghanistan began with a U.S.-led military response to the terrorist attacks of