Increased Violence and Instability in Afghanistan

Increased Violence and Instability in Afghanistan

Increased violence and instability in Afghanistan resulting from the withdrawal of coalition combat forces and strengthening of the Taliban insurgency

Afghanistan is vulnerable to heightened violence and insecurity following the drawdown of coalition combat forces. In response to these concerns, the United States intends to keep 9,800 troops in Afghanistan until the end of 2015, and will reduce to a small military presence at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul by 2017. Yet the Afghanistan National Security Forces (ANSF), due to assume security responsibilities from the United States and the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF), are lacking in logistics, intelligence gathering, and other capacities. Suicide bomb attacks by the Taliban have surged: according to some estimates, the number of attacks in Kabul alone more than doubled in 2014.

Afghanistan’s 2014 presidential election resulted in political deadlock, requiring two rounds of voting and an international audit to address allegations of voter fraud. In early September, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry brokered an agreement to form a national unity government led by Ashraf Ghani as president and Abdullah Abdullah as chief executive. Now Ghani and Abdullah are confronting the challenges of jointly governing a country that has seen an increase in Taliban-led violence since the campaign began last February.

The Afghan economy has been battered by uncertainty surrounding the 2014 elections and the future of international donor assistance. While the United States and its allies have pledged to provide ongoing support to Kabul, the transition to a peacetime economy could further destabilize Afghan society by inflating the budget deficit and increasing unemployment rates.

The United States has a vital interest in persevering the many political, economic, and security gains that have been achieved in Afghanistan since 2001. A resurgence of the Taliban insurgency could once again turn Afghanistan into a terrorist safe haven. Moreover, 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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