Increased Violence and Instability in Afghanistan

Increased Violence and Instability in Afghanistan

Growing violence and instability in Afghanistan resulting from the drawdown of coalition forces and/or contested national elections


Afghanistan will face political and security transitions in 2014 that threaten to increase levels of violence and exacerbate internal instability. Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), due to assume security responsibilities from the United States and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) by the end of 2014, are sorely lacking in logistics, intelligence gathering, and other capacities. ANSF’s strength will be tested in coming months as the Afghan Taliban carries out its annual spring offensive and foreign troops rapidly withdraw.

The United States intends to keep a residual force of 9,800 troops in Afghanistan for one year after combat operations end in 2014 and will draw down to a small military presence at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul by 2016. This plan will require the new Afghan president to sign a bilateral security agreement, which President Hamid Karzai has thus far refused to sign. The failure to sign a security pact could undermine the efforts of U.S. and allied forces to improve the fragile Afghan security environment and prevent al-Qaeda from reestablishing a safe haven in the country.

Although Afghanistan’s spring presidential elections proceeded relatively peacefully, the result of the June 2014 runoff vote remains in dispute as candidate Abdullah Abdullah protests the conduct of the elections. If the outcome is rejected by competing constituencies, the Afghan army may fracture politically, ethnically, or along other cleavages. Afghan governance remains weak and corrupt, further hindering international efforts to strengthen the rule of law. Internal instability in Afghanistan could have larger regional ramifications as Pakistan, India, Iran, and Russia compete for influence in Kabul and among influential subnational actors.


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