War in Afghanistan: Campaign Progress, Political Strategy, and Issues for Congress [January 2, 2014] [open pdf - 297KB]
"This is a critical time for U.S. efforts in the war in Afghanistan. U.S. military engagement beyond December 2014, when the current NATO mission ends, depends on the achievement of a U.S.- Afghan Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA), specifying the status of U.S. forces. Afghan President Hamid Karzai threw the BSA process into confusion by introducing new terms and conditions after a deal had been reached by negotiators. Even if a BSA is reached, U.S. decisions are still pending regarding the scope, scale, and timeline for any post-2014 U.S. force presence in Afghanistan. President Obama has indicated U.S. readiness, in principle, to maintain a small force focused on counter-terrorism and supporting the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). While troop levels tend to steal the headlines, more fundamentally at stake is what it would take to ensure the long-term protection of U.S. interests in Afghanistan and the region. Arguably, the United States may have a number of different interests at stake in the region: countering al Qaeda and other violent extremists; preventing nuclear proliferation; preventing nuclear confrontation between nuclear-armed states; standing up for American values, including basic human rights and the protection of women; and preserving the United States' ability to exercise leadership on the world stage. At issue is the relative priority of these interests, what it would take in practice to ensure that they are protected, and their relative importance compared to other compelling security concerns around the globe."
CRS Report for Congress, R43196