War in Afghanistan: Strategy, Operations, and Issues for Congress [March 9, 2011] [open pdf - 807KB]
"In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States launched and led military operations in Afghanistan 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. [...] In late 2010, NATO [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] and the Afghan government agreed to pursue a key medium-term goal: the transition of lead responsibility for security to Afghans throughout the country by the end of 2014. The U.S. government has stated its intention to begin drawing down some U.S. forces from Afghanistan in July 2011, and also to maintain a long-term strategic partnership with Afghanistan beyond 2014. Strategic vision for Afghanistan is still, many would argue, a work in progress. President Karzai has consistently stressed the theme of 'Afghan leadership, Afghan ownership.' President Obama has consistently stressed the core goals of the United States: to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al- Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to prevent their return. Yet for the U.S. government, fundamental issues remain unresolved. These include (1) determining the minimum essential conditions required for Afghanistan itself to be able to sustain stability with relatively limited international support; (2) defining the appropriate combination of U.S. efforts, together with other international resources, over time, required to achieve those minimum conditions; and (3) balancing U.S. national security interests in Afghanistan and the region against other imperatives, in a constrained fiscal environment. This report, which will be updated as events warrant, describes and analyzes (1) the key players in the war in Afghanistan; (2) the strategic outlooks of the Afghan government, the U.S. government, and NATO; (3) the threats to the security and stability of the Afghan state and its people; (4) the major facets of the current effort: security, governance and anti-corruption, development, reconciliation and reintegration, and transition; (5) mechanisms in place to measure progress; and (6) critical issues that Congress may wish to consider further."
CRS Report for Congress, R40156