Directly following the 60th anniversary NATO summit in April of 2009, President Obama announced a new strategy in America's war in Afghanistan, which would focus on the tactics of "disrupting, dismantling and defeating" what remains of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Though the Taliban are no longer able to effectively control significant portions of the nation, the U.S. fears that if it were to pull all troops out of Afghanistan, the last decade of progress would be quickly reversed. However, there have been recent peace talks between the U.S.-Afghan forces and the Taliban.
The president’s new strategy included a troop surge of 30,000 new soldiers near the end of 2009, including some NATO allied troops, and a heavier insistence on the training and implementation of Afghan soldiers. While casualties in Afghanistan were at their highest in June of 2010, experts and strategists are hopeful that with the increases in manpower the U.S. military will be able to fully turn the tide against the Taliban and stabilize the region. Still, 2011 saw over 500 American fatalities, another rise in civilian deaths, and few victories against the Taliban. Some have grown very concerned over the timeframe of this war's end.
U.S. officials are now counting on strong allegiance and cooperation from Afghanistan’s new president, Hamid Karzai, as well as continued support from the Pakistani military (the Afghan-Pakistani border is a popular hideout for large number of Taliban members). Since the beginning of the war, the U.S. military has faced large problems with rampant corruption in the Afghan government, a weak Afghani military and unreliable support from Pakistan.
Much like Iraq, the ultimate goal stated by U.S. officials is to rid the nation of extremist, terror groups, thereby leaving a stable and efficient government in place. Most experts agree that an end is in sight, but most also argue that the Afghan government and military are still in need of outside assistance. In June of 2011, President Obama announced his plan to have all troops out of Afganistan by 2014. More recently, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta laid out a more aggressive plan to leave the country by 2013. Though withdrawal within the next year or two has popular support, others have warned of continued struggle for the Afghani people, especially financially.
Simultaneously, the United States is fighting a war on drugs in Afghanistan, hoping to slow the opium trade and thus injure the Taliban, which relies heavily on this business for funding. In 2007, 92% of the world's opium supply came from Afghanistan. This "second front" in Afghanistan has been another source of controversy and debate, and further complications.
With all troops now out of Iraq, the debate and questions raised are largely the same with respect to Afghanistan. Are the Afghan government and military prepared to be autonomous? Will extremist groups be able to once again take hold of the country? At what point is significant U.S. military presence no longer a viable option? Some are calling for increased military strength. Others argue that such an effort will be fruitless and wasteful. As tensions in the Middle East continue, particularly with Iran, the questions surrounding Afghanistan become crucial.
This topic looks at different answers to these questions, detailing some of the key events of the war and providing analysis of what the future might hold for Afghanistan.