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War in Afghanistan: Strategy, Military Operations, and Issues for Congress
Steve Bowman (au); Catherine Dale (au)
By early 2009, a growing number of Members of Congress, Admin. officials, and outside experts had concluded that the war in Afghanistan required greater national attention Since 2001, the character of the war in Afghanistan has evolved from a violent struggle against al Qaeda and its Taliban supporters to a multi-faceted counterinsurgency (COIN) effort. In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. launched Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in order to end the ability of the Taliban regime to provide safe haven to al Qaeda and to put a stop to al Qaeda’s use of the territory of Afghanistan as a base of operations for terrorist activities. U.S. and coalition forces, working with Afghan opposition forces, quickly removed the Taliban regime. The character of the war then shifted to a multifaceted COIN effort aimed at smothering the diffuse insurgency by shoring up GIRoA efforts to provide security, governance, and economic development. The three areas are generally viewed as interdependent and mutually-reinforcing — security is a prerequisite for some governance and development efforts, and longer-term, sustainable security requires both functional governance and economic opportunity. As one pillar of the COIN campaign in Afghanistan, the Afghan and internationalmilitary effort aims broadly at defeating the remnants of the Taliban and other insurgents, securing the population, and helping extend the reach of the Afghan government. The international military effort includes both the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force(ISAF), to which the United States contributes troops, and the separate U.S.-led OEF mission. The U.S. government faces key strategic and operational decisions about its further engagement in the war in Afghanistan. These may include clarifying U.S. national interests in Afghanistan and the region; defining clear strategic objectives based on those interests; determining which diplomatic, economic, and military approaches to adopt, and what resources to commit to support those approaches; prioritizing “Afghanistan” versus other national security imperatives; and helping marshal a coordinated application of international efforts. Avenues available to Congress for exercising oversight include authorizing and appropriating funding for U.S. efforts in Afghanistan and the region; shaping policy through directive legislation; holding oversight hearings to assess policy execution; and adjusting Administration reporting requirements. This report provides analysis of current developments and future options concerning the war in Afghanistan. Map.
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