Report to Congress on Afghanistan and US Policy Maritime India News

The following is the Congressional Research Service report of February 28, 2022, Afghanistan: Background and US Policy in Brief.

From the report

In 2021, US and international forces withdrew from Afghanistan after nearly two decades of operations, and the Taliban, a Sunni Islamist extremist group that previously ruled the country from 1996 to 2001, took power back. The United States does not recognize the Taliban or any other entity as the government of Afghanistan and reports that there are no US diplomatic or military personnel in the country. The Taliban’s position appears secure, although their rule appears to have had a negative impact on most Afghans and a range of US political interests.

The Taliban government is dominated by former officials from the Taliban’s previous rule or long-time loyalists. Signs of disagreement in various directions have emerged within the group’s ranks, although the Taliban have a long history of effectively managing internal disputes. Some Afghans have attempted to stand up for their rights and express their opposition to the Taliban in non-violent demonstrations, which the Taliban have sometimes violently dispersed, but the Taliban do not appear to face any effective political opposition. Other Afghans have taken up arms against the Taliban, claiming to have carried out guerrilla-style attacks on Taliban forces and calling for international assistance. Islamic State’s regional offshoot has carried out attacks against Taliban forces, Afghan civilians and international targets alike.

Some congressmen have focused on a number of implications of renewed Taliban rule for US interests:

  • anti-terrorism. The Taliban takeover had mixed effects on Islamic State and al-Qaeda, historical adversaries and partners of the Taliban respectively. With no US forces stationed in Afghanistan or neighboring countries, the United States is taking an over-the-horizon approach to counterterrorism.
  • women and girls. Taliban actions have adversely affected the status of women and girls in Afghanistan, a long-standing concern of US policy, as girls are banned from attending school above primary school and women’s roles have been severely restricted, including a December 2022 decision women working for non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
  • Relocation of US partners. Some congressmen have kept a close eye on ongoing US efforts to relocate remaining US citizens, as well as the tens of thousands of Afghans who have worked for US efforts and are trying to leave the country.

Some members have also expressed their concern at the dire humanitarian conditions in Afghanistan. Since the Taliban takeover, Afghanistan has faced intersecting and overwhelming humanitarian and economic crises, both pre-existing (such as natural disasters and Afghanistan’s weak economic base) and new (such as the cessation of international development assistance, US sanctions) due to the Taliban and the US holding assets of the Afghan central bank). In response, the Biden administration has provided over $1 billion in humanitarian aid, issued general licenses authorizing various humanitarian and commercial transactions, and established a Switzerland-based “Afghan Fund” to allocate a portion of Afghanistan’s central bank assets to support the pay off Afghan economy.

Congressional oversight of US-Afghanistan policy has included numerous hearings, past and ongoing investigations, and the establishment of the Afghanistan War Commission. Congress has also enacted a set of reporting requirements to monitor the dynamics in Afghanistan and their implications for US policy. In the future, Congress may consider additional reporting requirements, resources, or investigative efforts related to various U.S. interests as it evaluates the Biden administration’s budget request and defense approval actions and examines lessons learned in Afghanistan. Future reports from the Congressional Afghanistan War Commission and other bodies could offer lessons for lawmakers.

Congressional action could be influenced or constrained by a lack of reliable information about events in Afghanistan and the historical legacy of the US conflict with the Taliban. Perhaps even more challenging, the Biden administration and many in Congress are trying to improve humanitarian and economic conditions in Afghanistan, but without taking any action that could strengthen the Taliban’s position or be perceived as such. Pursuing these policies in parallel could prove complicated given the Taliban’s apparent reluctance to compromise in response to international pressures and their apparent willingness to accept significant humanitarian and economic suffering as the price of this uncompromising stance.

Download the document Here.

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