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Dilemmas for US Strategy: Transition in Afghanistan

Richard Weitz

In June 2013, the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) assumed the lead combat role throughout Afghanistan against the tenacious Taliban insurgency. US combat forces in Afghanistan are scheduled to decrease to 32,000 by the end of the year.1 After next year, the United States intends to have a smaller Enduring Presence force operating under NATO command and a separate focused counterterrorism mission. If the ANSF performs well in the next year with a declining US military presence, we could see a successful NATO-ANSF transfer. The risk remains uncomfortably high, however, that the Afghan government will eventually succumb to an onslaught of the intensely ideologically motivated Taliban fighters linked to al Qaeda Islamist extremists. Both groups enjoy sanctuary and support in neighboring countries. Still, the most likely scenario is renewed civil war among multiple armed factions such as Afghanistan experienced during the 1990s.

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