Order Code RL30588
Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
Afghanistan: Current Issues
and U.S. Policy
August 23, 2002
Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
Afghanistan: Current Issues
and U.S. Policy
The United States and its allies are helping Afghanistan emerging from more
than 22 years of warfare, although substantial risk to Afghan stability remains.
Before the U.S. military campaign against the orthodox Islamist Taliban movement
began on October 7, 2001, Afghanistan had been mired in conflict since the Soviet
invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. The Taliban ruled most of Afghanistan during 1996
until its collapse at the hands of the U.S. and Afghan opposition military campaign
in November - December 2001. During its rule, the Taliban was opposed primarily
by the Northern Alliance, a coalition of minority ethnic groups. During 1998 until
its rule ended, the Taliban had come under increasing international pressure to cease
hosting of terrorist leader Osama bin Laden and members of his Al Qaeda
organization, the prime suspect in the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United
The defeat of the Taliban has enabled the United States and its coalition partners
to send forces throughout Afghanistan to search for Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters
and leaders that remain at large, including bin Laden himself. Afghan citizens are
enjoying new personal freedoms that were forbidden under the Taliban, refugees are
returning at a rapid rate, and women are returning to schools and their jobs and
participating in politics.
Although the Northern Alliance has emerged as the dominant force in the
country, the United States and United Nations mediators persuaded the Alliance to
share power with Pashtun representatives in a broad-based interim government. On
December 5, 2001, major Afghan factions, meeting under U.N. auspices in Bonn,
signed an agreement to form an interim government that ran Afghanistan until a
traditional national assembly (“loya jirga”) was held June 11-19, 2002. The meeting
selected a new government to run Afghanistan for the next eighteen months, with
interim chairman Hamid Karzai, a Pashtun, to continue as leader for that time.
As the war against remaining Al Qaeda and Taliban elements continues, the
United States is working to stabilize the interim government, arrange humanitarian
and reconstruction assistance, expand a new Afghan national army, and support the
international security force (ISAF) that is helping the new government provide
security. The United States has reopened its embassy in Kabul and allowed the
Afghan administration to reopen Afghanistan’s embassy in Washington. To help
foster development, the United Nations and the Bush Administration are in the
process of lifting U.N. and international sanctions imposed on Afghanistan since the
Background to Recent Developments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
The Rise of The Taliban . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Mullah Muhammad Umar/Taliban Leaders . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Coalescence of the Northern Alliance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Operation Enduring Freedom . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
War-Related Casualties . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Political Settlement Efforts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Pre-September 11 Efforts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
The “Six Plus Two” and Geneva Contact Groups . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
King Zahir Shah and the Loya Jirga Processes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Post-September 11 U.N. Efforts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Bonn Conference/Interim Government . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
The Loya Jirga . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
International Security Force/Afghan National Army . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
Diplomatic and Governmental Activity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Regional Context . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Pakistan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Iran . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
Russia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
Central Asian States . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
China . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
Saudi Arabia . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
U.S. Policy Issues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
Harboring of Al Qaeda . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
Human Rights/Treatment of Women . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22
Destruction of Buddha Statues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
Hindu Badges . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
Counternarcotics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24
Retrieval of U.S. Stingers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 25
Landmine Eradication . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
Assistance and Reconstruction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
U.S. Assistance Issues . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
Reconstruction Aid . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27
Promoting Long-Term Economic Development . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29
U.S. and International Sanctions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
Map of Afghanistan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36
List of Tables
Table 1. Major Factions in Afghanistan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
Table 2. U.S. Aid to Afghanistan in FY1999-FY2002 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31
Table 3. U.S. Assistance to Afghanistan FY1978-1998 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32
Afghanistan: Current Issues and
Background to Recent Developments
Afghanistan became unstable in the 1970s as both its Communist Party and its
Islamic movement grew in strength and became increasingly bitter opponents of each
other.1 The instability shattered the relative peace and progress that characterized the
rule of King Mohammad Zahir Shah, who reigned during 1933 - 1973. Zahir Shah
was the last King in Afghanistan’s monarchy, which was founded in 1747 by Ahmad
Shah Durrani. Prior to the founding of the monarchy, Afghanistan did not exist as
a distinct political entity, but was a territory inhabited by tribes and tribal
confederations often linked to neighboring nations. Zahir Shah was the only
surviving son of King Mohammad Nadir Shah (1929-1933), whose rule followed
(after a brief rule in 1919 by a Tajik strongman named Bacha-i-Saqqo) that of King
Amanullah Khan (1919-1929). King Amanullah Khan launched attacks on British
forces in Afghanistan shortly after taking power and won complete independence
from Britain as recognized in the Treaty of Rawalpindi (August 8, 1919). He was
considered a secular modernizer and who presided over a government in which all
ethnic minorities participated. Zahir Shah promulgated a constitution in 1964 that
established a national legislature, and he promoted freedoms for women, including
freeing them from the veil. However, possibly believing that doing so would enable
him to limit Soviet support for communist factions in Afghanistan, Zahir Shah also
entered into a significant political and arms purchase relationship with the Soviet
While undergoing medical treatment in Italy, Zahir Shah was overthrown by his
cousin, Mohammad Daoud, a military leader. Daoud established a dictatorship
characterized by strong state control over the economy. After taking power in 1978
by overthrowing Daoud, the communists, first under Nur Mohammad Taraki and
then under Hafizullah Amin (leader of a rival communist faction who overthrew
Taraki in 1979), attempted to impose radical socialist change on a traditional society.
The communists tried to redistribute land and bring more women into government
positions. These moves spurred recruitment for Islamic parties and their militias
opposed to communist ideology. The Soviet Union sent troops into Afghanistan on
December 27, 1979 to prevent a seizure of power by the Islamic-oriented militias
For more information, see CRS Report RL31389, Afghanistan: Challenges and Options
for Reconstructing a Stable and Moderate State, by Richard Cronin; and RL31355,
Afghanistan’s Path to Reconstruction: Obstacles, Challenges, and Issues for Congress, by
that later became known as “mujahedin”2 (Islamic fighters), and thereby keep
Afghanistan pro-Soviet. Upon their invasion, the Soviets ousted Hafizullah Amin
and installed its local ally, Babrak Karmal, as Afghan president.
After the Soviets occupied Afghanistan, the U.S.-backed mujahedin fought
them effectively, and Soviet occupation forces were never able to pacify all areas of
the country. The Soviets held major cities, but the outlying mountainous regions
remained largely under mujahedin control. The mujahedin benefitted from U.S.
weapons and assistance, provided through the Central Intelligence Agency, working
closely with Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence directorate (ISI). That weaponry
included man-portable shoulder-fired anti-aircraft systems called “Stingers,” which
proved highly effective against Soviet aircraft. The Islamic guerrillas also hid and
stored weaponry in a large network of natural and manmade tunnels and caves
throughout Afghanistan. The Soviet Union’s losses mounted, and domestic opinion
shifted against the war. In 1986, perhaps in an effort to signal some flexibility on a
possible political settlement, the Soviets replaced Babrak Karmal with the more
pliable former director of Afghan intelligence (Khad), Najibullah Ahmedzai (who
went by the name Najibullah or, on some occasions, the abbreviated Najib).
On April 14, 1988, the Soviet Union, led by reformist leader Mikhail
Gorbachev, agreed to a U.N.-brokered accord (the Geneva Accords) requiring it to
withdraw. The Soviet Union completed the withdrawal on February 15, 1989,
leaving in place a weak communist government facing a determined U.S. backed
mujahedin. A warming of superpower relations moved the United States and Soviet
Union to try for a political settlement to the internal conflict. From late 1989, the
United States pressed the Soviet Union to agree to a mutual cutoff of military aid to
the combatants. The failed August 1991 coup in the Soviet Union reduced Moscow’s
capability for and interest in supporting communist regimes in the Third World,
leading Moscow to agree with Washington on September 13, 1991, to a joint cutoff
of military aid to the Afghan combatants.
The State Department has said that a total of about $3 billion in economic and
covert military assistance was provided by the U.S. to the Afghan mujahedin from
1980 until the end of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in 1989. Press reports
and independent experts believe the covert aid program grew from about $20 million
per year in FY1980 to about $300 million per year during fiscal years 1986 - 1990.
Even before the 1991 U.S.-Soviet agreement on Afghanistan, the Soviet withdrawal
had decreased the strategic and political value of Afghanistan and made the
Administration and Congress less forthcoming with funding. For FY1991, Congress
reportedly cut covert aid appropriations to the mujahedin from $300 million the
previous year to $250 million, with half the aid withheld until the second half of the
fiscal year. Although the intelligence authorization bill was not signed until late
1991, Congress abided by the aid figures contained in the bill.3
The term refers to an Islamic guerrilla; literally “one who fights in the cause of Islam.”
See “Country Fact Sheet: Afghanistan,” in U.S. Department of State Dispatch. Volume
5, No. 23, June 6, 1994. Page 377.
With Soviet backing
withdrawn, on March 18, 1992,
Afghan President Najibullah
publicly agreed to step down
once an interim government
was formed. His announcement
set off a wave of regime
defections, primarily by Uzbek
and Tajik ethnic militias that
had previously been allied with
the Kabul gov ernment,
including that of Uzbek militia
commander Abdul Rashid
Dostam (see below).
Pashtun 38%; Tajik 25%;
Uzbek 6%; Hazara 19%; others
Sunni Muslim 84%; Shiite
Muslim 15%; other 1%
Per Capita Income:
$280/yr (World Bank figure)
$5.5 billion (1996 est.)
fruits, nuts, carpets
Source: CIA World Factbook, 2000.
Joining with the defectors,
commander Ahmad Shah
Masud (of the Islamic Society, a largely Tajik party headed by Burhannudin Rabbani)
sent his fighters into Kabul, paving the way for the installation of a mujahedin regime
on April 18, 1992. Masud, nicknamed “Lion of the Panjshir,” had earned a
reputation as a brilliant strategist by successfully preventing the Soviets from
occupying his power base in the Panjshir Valley of northeastern Afghanistan. Two
days earlier, as the mujahedin approached Kabul, Najibullah failed in an attempt to
flee Afghanistan. He, his brother, and a few aides remained at a U.N. facility in
Kabul until the day in September 1996 that the Taliban movement seized control of
the city – Taliban fighters entered the U.N. compound, captured Najibullah and his
brother, and hanged them.
The victory over Najibullah brought the mujahedin parties to power in
Afghanistan but also exposed the serious differences among them. Under an
agreement among all the major mujahedin parties, Burhannudin Rabbani became
President in June 1992, with the understanding that he would leave office in
December 1994. His refusal to step down at the end of that time period–on the
grounds that political authority would disintegrate in the absence of a clear
successor–led many of the other parties to accuse him of attempting to monopolize
power. His government faced daily shelling from another mujahedin commander,
Pakistan-backed Gulbuddin Hikmatyar, a radical Islamic fundamentalist who headed
a faction of Hizb-e-Islami (Islamic Party) and who was nominally the Prime Minister.
(Hikmatyar was later ousted by the Taliban from his powerbase around Jalalabad
despite sharing the Taliban’s ideology and Pashtun ethnicity, and he fled to Iran).
Four years (1992-1996) of civil war among the mujahedin followed, destroying
much of Kabul and creating popular support for the Taliban. In addition, the
dominant Pashtun ethnic group accused the Rabbani government of failing to
represent all of Afghanistan’s ethnic groups, and many Pashtuns allied with the
The Rise of The Taliban
The Taliban movement was formed in 1993-1994 by Afghan Islamic clerics and
students, many of them former mujahedin who had moved into the western areas of
Pakistan to study in Islamic seminaries (“madrassas”). They are mostly ultraorthodox Sunni Muslims who practice a form of Islam, “Wahhabism,” similar to that
practiced in Saudi Arabia. The Taliban was composed overwhelmingly of ethnic
Pashtuns (Pathans) from rural areas of Afghanistan. Pashtuns constitute a plurality
in Afghanistan, accounting for about 38% of Afghanistan’s population of about 26
million. Taliban leaders viewed the Rabbani government as corrupt and responsible
for continued civil war in Afghanistan and the deterioration of security in the major
cities. With the help of defections by sympathetic mujahedin fighters, the Taliban
seized control of the southeastern city of Qandahar in November 1994 and continued
to gather strength. The Taliban’s early successes encouraged further defections
around Afghanistan, and by February 1995 it had reached the gates of Kabul, after
which an 18-month stalemate around the capital ensued. In September 1995, the
Taliban captured Herat province, on the border with Iran, and expelled the proIranian governor of the province, Ismail Khan. In September 1996, a string of
Taliban victories east of Kabul led to the withdrawal of the Rabbani government to
the Panjshir Valley north of Kabul, with most of its heavy weapons intact. The
Taliban took control of Kabul on September 27, 1996.
The Taliban lost much of its international support as its policies unfolded. It
imposed strict adherence to Islamic customs in areas it controls, and used harsh
punishments, including executions, on transgressors. The Taliban regime established
a Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and the Suppression of Vice, a force of police
officers to enforce its laws and moral rules. It banned television, popular music, and
dancing, and required male beards. The Taliban prohibited women from attending
school or working outside the home (except in health care).
Mullah Muhammad Umar/Taliban Leaders. During the war against the
Soviet Union, Taliban founder Mullah Muhammad Umar fought in the Hizb-e-Islam
(Islamic Party) mujahedin party led by Yunis Khalis. During Taliban rule, Mullah
Umar held the title of Head of State and Commander of the Faithful. He lost an eye
during the anti-Soviet war, rarely appeared in public, and did not take an active role
in the day-to-day affairs of governing. However, in times of crisis or to discuss
pressing issues, he summoned Taliban leaders to meet with him in Qandahar.
Considered a hardliner within the Taliban regime, Mullah Umar forged a close
personal bond with bin Laden and was adamantly opposed to handing him over to
another country to face justice. Born near Qandahar, Umar is about 50 years old. His
ten year old son, as well as his stepfather, reportedly died at the hands of U.S.
airstrikes in early October 2001. Umar, having reportedly fled Qandahar city when
the Taliban surrendered the city on December 9, 2001, is still at large, and he is
believed to still be in the country, possibly in his native Uruzgan Province.
Coalescence of the Northern Alliance
The rise of the Taliban movement caused other power centers to make common
cause with ousted President Rabbani and commander Masud. The individual groups
allied with them in a “Northern Alliance.” The Persian-speaking core of the
Northern Alliance was located not only in the Panjshir Valley of the northeast but
also in largely Persian-speaking western Afghanistan near the Iranian border. The
fighters in the west are generally loyal to the charismatic militia leader Ismail Khan,
who regained the governorship of his former stronghold in Herat and surrounding
provinces after the Taliban collapse of mid-November 2001.
One non-Tajik component of the Northern Alliance is the Uzbek militia force
(the Junbush-Melli, or National Islamic Movement of Afghanistan) of General Abdul
Rashid Dostam. Uzbeks constitute about 6% of the population, compared with 25%
that are Tajik.) Dostam’s break with Najibullah in early 1992 helped pave the way
for the overthrow of the communist regime. He subsequently fought against Rabbani
during his presidency in an effort to persuade him to yield power, but then allied with
Rabbani and the Northern Alliance when the Taliban took power in Kabul. Dostam
once commanded about 25,000 troops, significant amounts of armor and combat
aircraft, and even some Scud missiles, but infighting within his faction left him
unable to hold off Taliban forces. The Taliban captured his power base in August
1998, leaving him in control of only small areas of northern Afghanistan near the
border with Uzbekistan. During the U.S.-led war against the Taliban, he, in concert
with a Tajik commander Atta Mohammad and a Shiite Hazara commander
Mohammad Mohaqqiq, recaptured Mazar-e-Sharif from the Taliban. There have
been tensions among the three in governing the city and its environs since, often
resulting in minor clashes. Clashes escalated in July 2002 but were calmed after
mediation by the U.N. personnel in Afghanistan.
Shiite Muslim parties, generally less active against the Soviet occupation than
were the Sunni parties, constituted another part of the Northern Alliance. In June
1992, Iranian-backed Hizb-e-Wahdat (Unity Party, an alliance of eight Hazara tribe
Shiite Muslim groups), agreed to join the Rabbani government in exchange for a
share of power. Hizb-e-Wahdat has traditionally received some material support
from Iran, which practices Shiism and has an affinity for the Hazaras. In September
1998, Taliban forces captured the Hazara stronghold of Bamiyan city, capital of
Bamiyan province, raising fears in Iran and elsewhere that Taliban forces would
massacre the Hazara civilians. This contributed to the movement of Iran and the
Taliban militia to the brink of armed conflict that month. After that time, Hizb-eWahdat forces occasionally retook Bamiyan city but were unable to hold it. They
recaptured Bamiyan province as the Taliban was collapsing in November 2001.
Another mujahedin party leader, Abd-i-Rab Rasul Sayyaf, heads a Pashtundominated faction called the Islamic Union for the Liberation of Afghanistan. Sayyaf
lived many years in and is politically close to Saudi Arabia, which shares his
interpretation of Sunni Islam. This interpretation (“Wahhabism”) is also shared by
the Taliban, which partly explains why many of Sayyaf’s fighters originally defected
to the Taliban movement when that movement was taking power. Although he is a
Pashtun, Sayyaf himself remained allied with the Northern Alliance and placed his
remaining forces at Alliance disposal. Sayyaf is considered personally close to
Rabbani and is reputedly maneuvering in concert with Rabbani for a future leadership
Operation Enduring Freedom. The political rivalries among opposition
groups long hindered their ability to shake the Taliban’s grip on power. In the few
years prior to the beginning of the U.S.-led war, the opposition had steadily lost
ground, even in areas outside Taliban’s Pashtun ethnic base. The losses extended to
the point at which the Taliban controlled at least 75% of the country and almost all
major provincial capitals. The Northern Alliance suffered a major setback on
September 9, 2001, two days before the September 11 attacks that led to the U.S.
intervention in Afghanistan, when Ahmad Shah Masud, the undisputed and
charismatic military leader of Northern Alliance forces, was assassinated by suicide
bombers at his headquarters. His successor was his intelligence chief, Muhammad
Fahim, who is a veteran commander but lacked the overarching authority or charisma
The U.S. military intervention in Afghanistan began on October 7, 2001
(Operation Enduring Freedom). The campaign consisted of U.S. airstrikes on
Taliban and Al Qaeda forces, coupled with targeting by U.S. special operations
forces working in Afghanistan with the Northern Alliance and other anti-Taliban
forces. Taliban control of the north collapsed first, followed by its control of
southern Afghanistan, which it progressively lost to pro-U.S. Pashtun forces, such as
those of Hamid Karzai. Karzai, the 45 year old leader of the powerful Popolzai tribe
of Pashtuns, had entered Afghanistan in October 2001 to organize resistance to the
Taliban, and he was supported in that effort by U.S. special forces. He has relatives
in and close ties to the United States. By the time the Taliban had been defeated,
Northern Alliance forces controlled about 70% of Afghanistan, including Kabul,
which they captured on November 12, 2001. Groups of Pashtun commanders took
control of cities and provinces east and south of Kabul. One example is Ghul Agha
Shirzai, the new governor of Qandahar province and environs.
Despite the overwhelming defeat of the Taliban, small Taliban and Al Qaeda
groups continue to operate throughout Afghanistan. Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin
Laden, identified by the Bush Administration as the main organizer of the September
11 attacks, is believed by U.S. military officials in Afghanistan to remain alive in
Afghanistan or Pakistan, attempting to avoid U.S. efforts to locate him and his
associates. However, he reportedly was wounded at or about the time of the U.S.Afghan offensive against the Al Qaeda stronghold of Tora Bora in eastern
Afghanistan (December 2001). The United States and its Afghan allies conducted
“Operation Anaconda” in the Shah-i-Kot Valley south of Gardez during March 2 19, 2002, to eliminate a pocket of as many as 800 Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters.
Several smaller military operations by the United States and its coalition partners
have been conducted since, particularly in eastern Afghanistan. Some pockets are
said to straddle the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, and press reports indicate that
Pakistan has been allowing the United States to conduct low-level military or military
support operations inside Pakistan since April 2002. On July 1, 2002, a U.S.
airstrike on suspected Taliban leaders in Uruzgan Province, the home province of
Taliban head Mullah Umar, mistakenly killed about 40 civilians. The United States
has about 7,000 troops in and around Afghanistan, and coalition forces are
contributing another 8,000, including those in the International Security Assistance
Force (ISAF), discussed further below. General Tommy Franks, commander of U.S.
Central Command (Centcom), responsible for prosecuting the war in Afghanistan,
said in August 2002 that U.S. forces would likely need to remain in Afghanistan for
years ahead to prevent terrorist groups from resettling there.
War-Related Casualties. No reliable Afghan casualty figures for the war on
the Taliban and Al Qaeda have been announced, but estimates by researchers of
Afghan civilian deaths generally cite figures of “several hundred” civilian deaths.
According to Centcom, as of May 24, 2002, 37 U.S. servicepersons were killed,
including from enemy fire, friendly fire, and non-hostile deaths (accidents). Of
coalition forces, 4 Canadian and 1 Australian military personnel were killed in hostile
circumstances. In addition, according to Centcom, there have been ten U.S. deaths
in the Philippines theater of Operation Enduring Freedom (operations against the Al
Qaeda-affiliated Abu Sayyaf organization), all of which resulted from a helicopter
Political Settlement Efforts
As the war against Al Qaeda and Taliban remnants continues, a longstanding
U.N. effort to form a broad-based Afghan government has borne some fruit, although
substantial instability remains
Pre-September 11 Efforts. For the 8 years prior to the war, the United
States worked primarily through the United Nations to end the Afghan civil conflict,
because the international body is viewed as a credible mediator by all sides. It was
the forum used for ending the Soviet occupation. However, some observers
criticized U.S. policy as being insufficiently engaged in Afghan mediation to bring
about a settlement. After the fall of Najibullah in 1992, a succession of U.N.
mediators – former Tunisian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Mestiri (March 1994-July
1996); German diplomat Norbert Holl (July 1996-December 1997); and Algeria’s
former Foreign Minister Lakhdar Brahimi (August 1997-October 1999) – sought to
arrange a ceasefire, and ultimately a peaceful transition to a broad-based
government. The proposed process for arranging a transition incorporated many
ideas advanced by former King Zahir Shah and outside experts, in which a permanent
government was to be chosen through a traditional Afghan selection process, the
hallmark of which was to be the holding of a loya jirga, a grand assembly of notable
These U.N. efforts, at times, appeared to make significant progress, but
ceasefires and other agreements between the warring factions always broke down.
Brahimi suspended his activities in frustration in October 1999, and another U.N.
mediator, Spanish diplomat Fransesc Vendrell, was appointed.
The “Six Plus Two” and Geneva Contact Groups. In parallel with
direct U.N. mediation efforts, the “Six Plus Two” contact group consisted of the
United States, Russia, and the six states bordering Afghanistan: Iran, China,
Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. Reflecting the common
concerns about Afghan-inspired regional instability, the “Six Plus Two “ contact
group met since early 1997 to discuss ways of bringing peace to Afghanistan. The
Six Plus Two process was created after several informal meetings of some of the key
outside parties in which the United States and others agreed not to provide weapons
to the warring factions. (In June 1996, the Administration formally imposed a ban
on U.S. sales of arms to all factions in Afghanistan, a policy already that had been
already in place less formally.4) The process was conducted in coordination with
U.N. peace efforts for Afghanistan.
In 2000, possibly because of the lack of progress in the Six Plus Two process,
another contact group began meeting in Geneva, and with more frequency than the
Six Plus Two. The Geneva grouping includes Italy, Germany, Iran, and the United
States. Another Afghan-related grouping multilateral mediating grouping consisted
of some Islamic countries operating under the ad-hoc “Committee on Afghanistan”
under the auspices of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC). The countries
in that ad-hoc committee include Pakistan, Iran, Guinea, and Tunisia. As of mid2002, these groups were technically still active, although they no longer constitute
a major center of international decisionmaking on Afghanistan.
King Zahir Shah and the Loya Jirga Processes. During the period of
Taliban rule, the United States also supported initiatives coming from Afghans
inside Afghanistan and in exile. During 1997, Afghans not linked to any of the
warring factions began a new peace initiative called the Intra Afghan Dialogue. This
grouping, consisting of former mujahedin commanders and clan leaders, held
meetings during 1997 and 1998 in Bonn, Frankfurt, Istanbul, and Ankara. Another
group, based on the participation of former King Zahir Shah, was centered in Rome
(“Rome Grouping”), where the former King lived. A third grouping, calling itself
the “Cyprus Process,” consisted of former Afghan officials and other Afghan exiles
generally sympathetic to Iran, including a relative of Gulbuddin Hikmatyar.
Post-September 11 U.N. Efforts. The September 11 attacks and the start
of U.S. military action against the Taliban injected new urgency into the search for
a government that might replace the Taliban. In late September 2001, Brahimi was
brought back as the U.N. representative to help arrange an alternative government to
The State Department appointed Policy Planning Director Richard
Haass to be the U.S. liaison with Brahimi and to assist in the search for an alternative
regime that might hasten the demise of the Taliban and keep order in the event the
Taliban collapses. On November 14, 2001, the U.N. Security Council adopted
Resolution 1378, calling for a “central” U.N. role in establishing a transitional
administration and inviting member states to send peacekeeping forces to promote
stability and secure the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
Many of the hopes for a post-Taliban government at first appeared to center on
the former King. A 2-day (October 25-26, 2001) meeting of more than 700 Afghan
tribal elders in Peshawar, Pakistan (“Peshawar Grouping”) issued a concluding
statement calling for the return of the former King. However, even though the
gathering was supportive of the former King, neither the King’s representatives nor
those of the Northern Alliance actually attended the gathering because of their
suspicions that the meeting was orchestrated by Pakistan for its own ends.
Bonn Conference/Interim Government. As part of the effort to craft a
new government, a U.S. envoy to the Northern Alliance, Ambassador James
Federal Register, Volume 61, No. 125, June 27, 1996. Page 33313.
Dobbins, was appointed in early November 2001 and, until April 2002, coordinated
U.S. reconstruction assistance efforts. (Later, another envoy was appointed, NSC
Senior Director for the Near East Zalmay Khalilzad, see below.) In late November,
as it became clear that the Taliban was going to fall as a result of the war, delegates
of the major Afghan factions – most prominently the Northern Alliance and
representatives of the former King – gathered in Bonn, Germany, at the invitation of
the United Nations. The Taliban was not invited. On December 5, 2001, the factions
signed an agreement to form a 30-member interim administration, to govern until the
holding in June 2002 of a loya jirga, to be opened by the former King. The loya
jirga was to choose a new government to run Afghanistan for the next eighteen
months until a new constitution is drafted and national elections held. It also would
establish a 111-member parliament. The last loya jirga that was widely recognized
as legitimate was held in 1964 to ratify a constitution. Communist leader Najibullah
convened a loya jirga in 1987 largely to approve his policies; that gathering was
widely viewed by Afghans as illegitimate.
The Bonn agreement also provided for an international peace keeping force to
maintain security, at least in Kabul. The Bonn conference’s conclusions were
endorsed by U.N. Security Council Resolution 1385 (December 6, 2001), and the
international peacekeeping force was authorized by Security Council Resolution
1386 (December 20, 2001).
Hamid Karzai was selected chairman of the interim administration, which
governed from December 22, 2001, until the end of the loya jirga. However, Karzai
presided over a cabinet in which a slight majority (17 out of 30) of the positions were
held by the Northern Alliance, with this block holding the key posts of Defense
(Mohammad Fahim), Foreign Affairs (Dr. Abdullah Abdullah), and Interior (Yunus
Qanuni). The three are ethnic Tajiks, with the exception of Dr. Abdullah, who is half
Tajik and half Pashtun. This trio, all of whom are in their mid-40s and were close
aides to Ahmad Shah Masud, is considered generally well disposed toward the
United States, although they also have ties to Iran and Russia, and all three are
suspicious of Pakistan.
The Loya Jirga. In late January 2002, the 21 members of the commission,
including two women, were chosen to prepare for the loya jirga. They initially
traveled around Afghanistan to solicit opinions on how to convene it, and it was
scheduled for June 10-16, 2002. In preparation for the assembly, the former King
returned to Afghanistan on April 18, 2002, and he conducted meetings with Afghan
notables and local leaders. By the beginning of June, 381 districts of Afghanistan
had chosen the 1,550 delegates to the loya jirga. About two hundred of the
delegates were women.
The loya jirga began on June 11, 2002, its opening delayed one day due to
factional bargaining. On its first day, the former King and Rabbani withdrew from
leadership consideration and endorsed interim government chairman Hamid Karzai
to continue as Afghanistan’s leader. Their withdrawals, reportedly urged or
supported by the United States, paved the way for Karzai’s selection as leader by the
loya jirga delegates over two other candidates, one of whom was a woman. On June
13, 2002, by an overwhelming margin, the loya jirga selected Karzai to lead
Afghanistan until the elections at the end of 2003. On its last day, June 19, 2002, the
assembly approved Karzai’s new cabinet, which included three vice presidents and
several “presidential advisors” in an effort to balance the ethnic and factional
composition of the government. However, the loya jirga adjourned without
establishing the new parliament; a working group has remained in Kabul to continue
working on it.
In the cabinet endorsed by the loya jirga, Karzai moved Yunus Qanooni to head
the Ministry of Education and serve as an adviser on security. He was replaced as
Interior Minister by Taj Mohammad Wardak, a Pashtun. Abdullah and Fahim
retained their positions, with Fahim acquiring the additional title of vice president.
Other notable changes to the government made by the loya jirga include the
Ashraf Ghani replaced Hedayat Amin Arsala as Finance Minister.
Ghani is a Pashtun with ties to international financial institutions.
The new Minister of Women’s Affairs is Habiba Sorabi, replacing
Hajji Abdul Qadir, a Pashtun, who is also governor of Nangahar
Province, switched portfolios to head the Ministry of Public Works.
He had headed the Ministry of Urban Affairs in the interim
goverment. He was also appointed a vice president. However,
Abdul Qadir was assassinated by unknown gunmen on July 6, and
his killing is being investigated.
The third vice president appointed was Karim Khalili, the leader of
a faction of the Hazara Shiite party Hizb-e-Wahdat.
Herat leader Ismail Khan was given no formal post; he preferred to
remain in his locality rather than take a position in the central
government in Kabul. His son, Mir Wais Saddiq was retained in the
new cabinet, heading the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism.
(He headed the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs in the interim
Dostam was given no formal post, although he served as deputy
Defense Minister in the interim administration. Dostam said in early
August that he prefers to remain in his northern stronghold rather
than accept a post that would bring him to Kabul.
A national security council was formed as an advisory body to
Karzai. The intention in establishing this council is to increase
Kabul’s decisionmaking power and extend central government
Since the loya jirga, there have been reports of strain between Karzai and
Fahim, who continues to dominate most of the armed force in Afghanistan. U.S.
envoy Khalilzad visited Kabul in early August to try to ease these tensions, with
some signs of success, at least for the current time. Some of the reports of strains
surfaced after Karzai replaced his Afghan bodyguard force with U.S. special forces,
shortly after the assassination of Abd al Qadir. The bodyguard switch suggested to
some Afghans that Karzai did not trust Fahim’s forces to protect him or the interests
of Afghanistan as a whole.
International Security Force/Afghan National Army. The International
Security Assistance Force (ISAF) created by the Bonn agreement has reached its
agreed strength of about 4,600. It is now headed by Turkey, which replaced Britain
as the lead force following the loya jirga. The force is operating in conjunction with
Afghan security forces in Kabul and is coordinating, to an extent, with the
approximately 7,000 U.S. military forces in and immediately around Afghanistan.
In an effort to assuage Turkish concerns about the costs of heading the force, the
United States offered Turkey $228 million in new U.S. aid to compensate for those
At this time, ISAF has forces from the following 18 countries: Austria,
Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the
Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, and
the United Kingdom (leader).
Because of several threats to Afghanistan’s internal security since the interim
government was constituted, Afghan officials want the force to be expanded and
deploy to other major cities. However, the Bush Administration favors its own
alternative plan to help build an Afghan national army rather than expand ISAF .
Training by U.S. special forces has begun, and the first 600 recruits have completed
their training as of mid-August 2002, with another 2,400 expected to complete
training by the end of 2002. On May 3, President Bush pledged to Karzai an
additional $2 million in U.S. aid to help equip the new army. The Department of
Defense envisions training up to 14,400 Afghan troops by the end of 2003 at a cost,
including establishing a general staff and a headquarters staff, of about $135 million.5
The desired size of the army has not yet been decided, but common estimates say that
the new army will need to number about 60,000 - 80,000 to be effective. The United
States plans to provide some additional U.S. arms and/or defense services to the
national army, according to statements by U.S. officials.
Some analysts have expressed concern that the national army will likely not be
ready in a timely enough manner to deal with the security threats now facing the
country, although the Administration and others indicate that U.S. forces will be
engaged in Afghanistan for a long enough period to ensure security until the Afghan
army can assume its full mission. The desire to expand ISAF’s mandate gained
further strength among Afghan officials following the July 1 assassination of Vice
President Abdul Qadir.
Others are concerned about reports that Vice
President/Defense Minister General Fahim is weighting the recruitment of the
national army to favor his Tajik ethnic base, and that Pashtuns, in reaction, are
refusing recruitment or leaving the national army program.
Briefing Slides Prepared by the National Defense University, Institute for National
Strategic Studies, for J-5 of the Department of Defense Joint Staff. June 2002.
Diplomatic and Governmental Activity. Since the constitution of the
interim government, several countries have reopened embassies in Kabul, including
the United States. In conjunction with the formation of the interim administration,
career diplomat Ryan Crocker was appointed Charge D’Affaires and NSC official
Zalmay Khalilzad was appointed a special envoy to Afghanistan in December 2001
and has made a few extended visits there. In late March 2002, the new U.S.
Ambassador to Afghanistan, Robert Finn, was confirmed by the Senate and sworn
in in Kabul. The new Afghan government has reopened the Afghan embassy in
Washington and a new ambassador, U.S.-educated and U.S.-based energy
entrepreneur Ishaq Shahryar, has taken office. He previously was an adviser to
former King Zahir Shah.
The priorities of the new government thus far have been expanding
governmental capabilities, guiding reconstruction efforts, and attempting to bring
security to all parts of Afghanistan. One of Karzai’s principal challenges is to extend
the writ of the central government while providing local leaders the degree of
autonomy that Afghanistan’s regions traditionally have sought. Achieving a balance
between central and local authority has generally been the key to stability in
Afghanistan’s past. Some local militias have been disarmed, but many independent
militias remain throughout the country. Karzai has threatened to send Afghan central
government forces to combat a rebellious local leader in Paktia province, Padsha
Karzai has sought and received some international funds to pay government
workers who had not been paid in many months. The national airline, Ariana, is also
in the process of resuming operations, although its fleet is very small. On March 23,
2002, schools reopened following the Persian/Afghan new year (Nowruz). Girls
returned to the schools for the first time since the Taliban came to power.
Regional Context 6
Even before September 11, several of Afghanistan’s neighbors were becoming
alarmed about threats to their own security interests emanating from Afghanistan.
All of these governments endorsed the Bonn agreement, but some experts believe
that the neighboring governments will likely attempt, over the long term, to
manipulate Afghanistan’s factions and its political structure to their advantage.
Pakistan reversed its position on the Taliban in the aftermath of the September
11 attacks. Pakistan initially saw the Taliban movement as an instrument with which
For further information, see CRS Report RS20411, Afghanistan: Connections to Islamic
Movements in Central and South Asia and Southern Russia. December 7, 1999, by Kenneth
For further discussion, see Rashid, Ahmed. “The Taliban: Exporting Extremism.” Foreign
Affairs, November - December 1999.
to fulfill its goals. Those goals traditionally have been to seek an Afghan central
government strong enough to prevent calls for unity between ethnic Pashtuns in
Afghanistan and Pakistan, while at the same time sufficiently friendly and pliable to
provide Pakistan strategic depth against rival India. In the wake of the Soviet
pullout in 1989, Pakistan was troubled by continued political infighting in
Afghanistan that was enabling drug trafficking to flourish and to which Afghan
refugees did not want to return. Pakistan saw Afghanistan as essential to opening up
trade relations and energy routes with the Muslim states of the former Soviet Union.
Pakistan was the most public defender of the Taliban movement and was one
of only three countries (Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are the others)
to formally recognize it as the legitimate government. Prior to September 11, the
government of General Pervez Musharraf, who took power in an October 1999 coup,
resisted U.S. pressure to forcefully intercede with the Taliban leadership to achieve
bin Laden’s extradition. Pakistan’s links to the Taliban, and the Taliban’s hosting
of Al Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, were a major focus of a visit to
Pakistan by Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering in May 2000, although
Pakistan made no commitments to help the United States achieve extradition of bin
Laden. U.N. Security Council Resolution 1333, of December 19, 2000, was partly
an effort by the United States and Russia to compel Pakistan to cease military advice
and aid to the Taliban. Pakistan did not completely cease military assistance, but it
abided by some provisions of the resolution, for example by ordering the Taliban to
cut the staff at its embassy in Pakistan.8 Prior to the September 11 terrorist attacks
in the United States, Pakistan had said it would cooperate with a follow-on U.N.
Security Council Resolution (1363 of July 30, 2001) that provided for U.N. border
monitors to ensure that no neighboring state was providing military equipment or
advice to the Taliban.
Pakistan’s modest pre-September 11 steps toward cooperation with the United
States reflected increasing wariness that the Taliban movement was radicalizing
existing Islamic movements inside Pakistan and was becoming an increasing
embarrassment to Pakistan itself. Pakistan also feared that its position on the Taliban
was propelling the United States into a closer relationship with Pakistan’s arch-rival,
India. Some Islamic movements in Pakistan were seeking to emulate the Taliban,
according to press reports, and Pakistani terrorist groups, such as the Harakat alMujahedin (HUM), Jaish e-Mohammad, and Lashkar-e-Tayyiba,9 are allied with Al
Qaeda, according to the State Department’s report on international terrorism for 2000
(“Patterns of Global Terrorism, 2000”). HUM and other Pakistani Islamist groups
are seeking to challenge India’s control over its portion of Kashmir and, according
to some observers, could provoke a war with India over Kashmir, as nearly happened
following the Pakistani Islamist attack on India’s parliament on December 13, 2001,
and in early 2002.
These considerations, coupled with U.S. pressure as well as offers of economic
benefit, prompted Pakistan to cooperate with the U.S. response to the September 11
Constable, Pamela. New Sanctions Strain Taliban-Pakistan Ties. Washington Post,
January 19, 2001.
The State Department has designated HUM as a foreign terrorist organization.
attacks. Pakistan provided the United States with requested access to Pakistani
airspace, ports, airfields. Pakistan has also arrested hundreds of Al Qaeda fighters
fleeing Afghanistan and turned them over to the United States and deployed
substantial forces to the Afghan border to capture Al Qaeda fighters attempting to
flee into Pakistan. Pakistani authorities helped the United States track and capture
top bin Laden aide Abu Zubaydah in early April 2002, and Pakistani forces
reportedly are helping the United States track and fight Al Qaeda forces along the
Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Some reports say bin Laden might have escaped into
Pakistan but U.S. officials have expressed confidence that he will be captured
eventually by Pakistan if he is there. Many feared that the U.S. military presence in
Pakistan would place the government under increased political threat from proTaliban Islamist groups in Pakistan that sympathize with the Taliban and bin Laden.
However, those fears have not materialized and the collapse of the Taliban appears
to have alleviated that pressure. In return for Pakistan’s cooperation, the
Administration, in some cases with new congressional authority enacted after
September 11, has waived most of the U.S. sanctions on Pakistan and has begun
providing foreign aid and debt relief and restructuring, according to U.S.
At the same time, Pakistan has sought to protect its interests by fashioning a
strong Pashtun-based component for a post-Taliban government. Pakistan is wary
that a post-Taliban government dominated by the Northern Alliance, which is
backed by India, would amount to Indian encirclement of Pakistan. To counter that
perceived threat, Pakistan was instrumental in preventing Northern Alliance leader
Rabbani from heading the post-Taliban government. Pakistan also succeeded in
building a role for the former King in selecting a permanent government, although
the former King’s role appears to be limited. Karzai visited Pakistan in late January
2002, and the two countries pledged to look to the future rather than to the recent
history of strains.
About 800,000 Afghan refugees remain in Pakistan. As of July 2002, about 1.2
million more have returned to Afghanistan from Pakistan since the Taliban fell.
Iran’s key national interests in Afghanistan are to exert influence over western
Afghanistan, which Iran borders and was once part of the Persian empire, and to
protect Afghanistan’s Shiite minority. Iran strongly supported the Northern Alliance
and its Tajik (Persian-speaking) leaders who have traditionally been strong in western
Afghanistan as well as northern Afghanistan. Since Taliban forces ousted Ismail
Khan from Herat (the western province that borders Iran) in September 1995, Iran
has seen the Taliban movement as a threat to its interests in Afghanistan. Iran
provided fuel, funds, and ammunition to the Northern Alliance11 and hosted fighters
loyal to Khan, who was captured by the Taliban in 1998 but escaped and fled to Iran
For more information on U.S. sanctions on Pakistan, see CRS Report RS20995, India and
Pakistan: Current U.S. Economic Sanctions, by Dianne E. Rennack.
Steele, Jonathon, “America Includes Iran In Talks On Ending War In Afghanistan.”
Washington Times, December 15, 1997. A14.
in March 2000. In September 1998, Iranian and Taliban forces nearly came into
direct conflict when Iran discovered that nine of its diplomats were killed in the
course of Taliban’s offensive in northern Afghanistan. Iran massed forces at the
border and threatened military action, but the crisis cooled without a major clash,
possibly because Iran lacked confidence in its military capabilities.
The United States and Iran have long had common positions on Afghanistan,
despite deep U.S.-Iran differences on other issues. U.S. officials have long
acknowledged working with Tehran, under the auspices of the Six Plus Two contact
group and Geneva group. U.S. and Iranian common interests on Afghanistan might
explain why Iran generally expressed support for the U.S. effort to forge a global
coalition against terrorism, although it publicly opposed U.S. military action against
Afghanistan. Iran has confirmed that it offered search and rescue assistance in
Afghanistan should the United States need it, and it also allowed U.S. humanitarian
aid to the Afghan people to transit Iran. On the other hand, some Iranian leaders have
been harshly critical of U.S. military action against the Taliban; in late September
Supreme Leader Ali Khamene’i compared that action to the September 11 terrorist
Amid reports Iran is seeking to exert influence over the new government by
arming pro-Iranian Afghan factions, in early January 2002 President Bush warned
Iran against meddling in Afghanistan. The President listed Iran as part of an “axis
of evil” in his January 29, 2002 State of the Union message, partly because of Iran’s
actions in Afghanistan. Since then, the Bush Administration has continued to accuse
Iran of trying to build influence over the interim government and of failing to attempt
to locate or arrest Al Qaeda fighters who have fled to Iran from Afghanistan. Partly
in response to the U.S. criticism, in February 2002 Iran reportedly expelled a major
critic of the interim administration, Gulbuddin Hikmatyar, from Iran. Hikmatyar
subsequently returned to Afghanistan but escaped an early May 2002 U.S. strike by
a CIA-controlled Predator-launched missile. For his part, Karzai has said that Iran
is an important neighbor of Afghanistan and visited Iran in late February 2002,
pledging to build ties with the Islamic republic. Saudi Arabia said in early August
2002 that Iran had turned over to Saudi Arabia several Al Qaeda fighters located and
arrested in Iran.
About 1.2 million Afghan refugees are still in Iran; most of these have been
permitted to integrate into Iranian society.12 As of July 2002, about 150,000 Afghan
refugees have returned since the Taliban fell. In mid-1994, Iran reportedly began
forcing Afghan refugees to leave Iran and return home, although Iran denies it has
forcibly repatriated any Afghans and some repatriation reportedly is voluntary.
A number of considerations might explain why Russia has supported the U.S.
effort against the Taliban and Al Qaeda, including the use of bases in Central Asia
to conduct the war. Russia’s main objective in Afghanistan has been to prevent the
Crossette, Barbara, “U.S. and Iran Cooperating on Ways to End the Afghan War.” New
York Times, December 15, 1997.
further strengthening of Islamic or nationalist movements in the Central Asian states
or Islamic enclaves in Russia itself, including Chechnya. For Russian leaders,
instability in Afghanistan also reminds the Russian public that the Soviet occupation
of Afghanistan failed to pacify or stabilize that country.
Russia’s fear became acute following an August 1999 incursion into Russia’s
Dagestan region by Islamic guerrillas from neighboring Chechnya. Some reports link
at least one faction of the guerrillas to Al Qaeda.13 This faction is led by a Chechen
of Arab origin who is referred to by the name “Hattab” (full name is Ibn al-Khattab);
Russia claimed to have killed Hattab in April 2002. In January 2000, the Taliban
became the only government in the world to recognize Chechnya’s independence,
and some Chechen fighters integrated into Taliban forces were captured or killed
during the October - November 2001 war.
The U.S. and Russian positions on Afghanistan became coincident well before
the September 11 attacks.14 Even before the U.S.-led war, Russia was supporting the
Northern Alliance with some military equipment and technical assistance.15 U.S.Russian cooperation led to the passage of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1267 on
October 15, 1999. That resolution, adopted in response to the Taliban’s harboring
of bin Laden, banned commercial flights by the Afghan national airline and directed
U.N. member states to freeze Taliban assets abroad (see section on Sanctions,
below). When the Taliban repeatedly refused to turn over bin Laden, the two cosponsored a follow-on – Security Council Resolution 1333 – that banned arms sales
and military advice to the Taliban, among other provisions, but did not ban such aid
to the Northern Alliance or other opposition factions.
On the other hand, the United States has not blindly supported Russia’s apparent
attempts to place a large share of the blame for the rebellion in Chechnya on the
Taliban and Al Qaeda. The Clinton Administration did not endorse Russian threats,
issued by President Vladimir Putin in May 2000, to conduct airstrikes against training
camps in Afghanistan that Russia alleges are for Chechen rebels. President Bush has
been critical of Russian tactics in Chechnya, although the criticism was more muted
after September 11. Some outside experts believe that Russia exaggerated the threat
emanating from Afghanistan in an effort to persuade the Central Asian states to
rebuild closer defense ties to Moscow and to justify its actions in Chechnya.
At the same time, some are wary that Russia might rebuild its influence in
Afghanistan. It has offered humanitarian and some military aid to the new
government. Several members of the interim administration, including Karzai and
Defense Minister Fahim, have visited Moscow since the administration took over.
Whittell, Giles. “Bin Laden Link To Dagestan Rebel Fightback.” London Times,
September 6, 1999.
Constable, Pamela. “Russia, U.S. Converge on Warnings to Taliban.” Washington Post,
June 4, 2000.
Risen, James. “Russians Are Back in Afghanistan, Aiding Rebels.” New York Times, July
Central Asian States 16
Former communist elites still in power in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and
Kyrgyzstan have grown increasingly concerned that Central Asian radical Islamic
movements are receiving safe haven in Afghanistan. In 1996, several of them banded
together with Russia and China into a regional grouping called the Shanghai
Cooperation Organization to discuss the threat emanating from Afghanistan’s
Taliban regime. The organization groups China, Russia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan,
Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. Of the Central Asian states that border Afghanistan,
two of them – Uzbekistan and Tajikistan – had seen themselves as particularly
vulnerable to militants harbored by the Taliban. Uzbekistan saw its ally, Abdul
Rashid Dostam, the Uzbek commander in northern Afghanistan, lose most of his
influence in 1998, although he has now regained power in the north. Prior to the U.S.
war on the Taliban and Al Qaeda, Uzbek officials had previously said that more
active support from Uzbekistan would not have enabled Dostam to overturn Taliban
control of the north.17
Uzbekistan has long asserted that the group Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan
(IMU), allegedly responsible for four simultaneous February 1999 bombings in
Tashkent that nearly killed President Islam Karimov, is linked to Al Qaeda.18 One
of its leaders, Juma Namangani, reportedly was killed while commanding Taliban/Al
Qaeda forces in the battle for Mazar-e-Sharif in November 2001. Uzbekistan has
been highly supportive of the United States in the wake of the September 11 attacks
and has placed military facilities at U.S. disposal for use in the combat against the
Taliban and Al Qaeda. About 1,000 U.S. troops from the 10th Mountain Division,
as well as U.S. aircraft, have been based at the Khanabad air base there. Following
the fall of the Taliban, in December 2001 Uzbekistan reopened the Soviet-built
“Friendship Bridge” over the Amu Darya river in order to facilitate the flow of aid
into Uzbekistan. Uzbek officials in Tashkent told CRS in May 2002 that the defeat
of the Taliban has made them somewhat less anxious about the domestic threat from
Over the past few years, Tajikistan has feared that its buffer with Afghanistan
would disappear if the Taliban defeated the Northern Alliance, whose territorial base
borders Tajikistan. Some of the IMU members based in Afghanistan, including
Namangani, fought alongside the Islamic opposition United Tajik Opposition (UTO)
during the 1994-1997 civil war in that country. Tajikistan, heavily influenced by
Russia, whose 25,000 troops guards the border with Afghanistan, initially sent mixed
signals on the question of whether it would give the United States the use of military
facilities in Tajikistan. However, on September 26, 2001, Moscow officially
endorsed the use by the United States of military facilities in Tajikistan, paving the
way for Tajikistan to open facilities for U.S. use. In early November 2001, following
For further information, see CRS Report RL30294. Central Asia’s Security: Issues and
Implications for U.S. Interests. December 7, 1999.
CRS conversations with Uzbek government officials in Tashkent. April 1999.
The IMU was named a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department in
a visit by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, Tajikistan agreed to allow the coalition to
use three air bases in that country.
Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan do not directly border Afghanistan. However, IMU
guerrillas have transited Kyrgyzstan during past incursions into Uzbekistan.19
Kazakhstan had begun to diplomatically engage the Taliban over the year prior to the
September 11 attacks, but it publicly supported the U.S. war effort against the
Taliban. In early December 2001, Kyrgyzstan offered to host U.S. warplanes, and
U.S. and French aircraft, including U.S. Marine F-18 strike aircraft, have been using
part of the international airport at Manas (Peter J. Ganci base) as a base for combat
flights in Afghanistan.20 Kyrgyzstan said in March 2002 that there is no time limit
on the U.S. use of military facilities there. Kazakhstan signed an agreement with the
United States in July 2002 to allow coalition aircraft to use Kazakhstan’s airports in
case of an emergency or short term need related to the ongoing war in Afghanistan.
Of the Central Asian states that border Afghanistan, only Turkmenistan was not
alarmed at Taliban gains and chose to seek close relations with the Taliban
leadership. An alternate interpretation is that Turkmenistan viewed engagement with
the Taliban as a more effective means of preventing spillover of radical Islamic
activity from Afghanistan. Turkmenistan’s leadership also saw Taliban control as
bringing the peace and stability that would permit construction of a natural gas
pipeline from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan. That pipeline would help
Turkmenistan bring its large gas reserves to world markets. However, the September
11 events stoked Turkmenistan’s fears of the Taliban and its Al Qaeda guests and the
country supported the U.S. anti-terrorism effort. There are no indications the United
States requested basing rights in Turkmenistan.
China has a small border with a sliver of Afghanistan known as the “Wakhan
corridor” (see map) and had become increasingly concerned about the potential for
Al Qaeda to promote Islamic fundamentalism among Muslims (Uighurs) in
northwestern China. A number of Uighurs fought in Taliban and Al Qaeda ranks in
the U.S.-led war. China expressed its concern through active membership in the
Shanghai Cooperation Organization, as noted above. In December 2000, sensing
China’s increasing concern about Taliban policies, a Chinese official delegation met
with Mullah Umar at the Taliban’s invitation.
Although it has long been concerned about the threat from the Taliban and bin
Laden, China did not enthusiastically support U.S. military action against the
Taliban. Many experts believe this is because China, as a result of strategic
considerations, was wary of a U.S. military buildup on its doorstep. China is an ally
with Pakistan, in part to balance out India, which China sees as a rival. Pakistan’s
cooperation with the United States appears to have allayed China’s opposition to U.S.
military action, and President Bush praised China’s cooperation with the anti-
Patterns of Global Terrorism: 1999, pp. 14, 92.
Some information based on CRS visit to the Manas facility in Kyrgyzstan, May 2002.
terrorism effort during his visit to China in October 2001. There were no indications
of U.S.-China strains on this issue during President Bush’s visit to Beijing in late
During the Soviet occupation, Saudi Arabia channeled hundreds of millions of
dollars to the Afghan resistance, and particularly to hardline Sunni Muslim
fundamentalist resistance leaders. Saudi Arabia, which itself practices the strict
Wahhabi brand of Islam practiced by the Taliban, was one of three countries to
formally recognize the Taliban government. (The others are Pakistan and the United
Arab Emirates.) The Taliban initially served Saudi Arabia as a potential counter to
Iran, with which Saudi Arabia has been at odds since Iran’s 1979 revolution.
However, Iranian-Saudi relations have improved significantly since 1997, and
balancing Iranian power has ebbed as a factor motivating Saudi policy toward
Afghanistan. Instead, drawing on its intelligence ties to Afghanistan during the antiSoviet war, Saudi Arabia worked with Taliban leaders to persuade them to suppress
anti-Saudi activities by Al Qaeda. Saudi Arabia apparently believed that Al Qaeda’s
presence in Afghanistan drew Saudi Islamic radicals away from Saudi Arabia itself
and thereby reduced their opportunity to destabilize the Saudi regime. Some press
reports indicate that, in late 1998, Saudi and Taliban leaders discussed, but did not
agree on, a plan for a panel of Saudi and Afghan Islamic scholars to decide bin
Laden’s fate. Other reports, however, say that Saudi Arabia refused an offer from
Sudan in 1996 to extradite bin Laden to his homeland on the grounds that he could
become a rallying point for opposition to the regime. In March 2000 and again in
May 2000, the Saudi-based Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) sponsored
indirect peace talks in Saudi Arabia between the warring factions, but the talks were
According to U.S. officials, Saudi Arabia has generally cooperated with the U.S.
war effort. Along with the UAE, Saudi Arabia broke diplomatic relations with the
Taliban in late September. It quietly permitted the United States to use a Saudi base
for command of U.S. air operations over Afghanistan. It did not serve as a staging
point for U.S. aircraft to launch strikes on Afghanistan from Saudi bases. The Saudi
position has generally been to allow the United States the use of its facilities as long
as doing so is not publicly requested or highly publicized.
U.S. Policy Issues
U.S. policy objectives in Afghanistan have long been multifaceted, although in
recent years U.S. goals had largely narrowed to ending the presence of the leadership
of the Al Qaeda leadership and infrastructure there. Since the Soviet withdrawal,
returning peace and stability to Afghanistan has also been a U.S. goal, pursued with
varying degrees of intensity. Other goals have included an end to discrimination
against women and girls, the eradication of narcotics production, and alleviating
severe humanitarian difficulties.
The Clinton Administration diplomatically engaged the Taliban movement as
it was gathering strength, but U.S. relations with the Taliban progressively
deteriorated during the 5 years that the Taliban were in power in Kabul. The United
States and the Taliban were largely adversaries well before the September 11 attacks.
Despite the deterioration, Clinton Administration officials including Assistant
Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs Karl Inderfurth met periodically with
Taliban officials. In April 1998, then Ambassador to the United Nations Bill
Richardson met with Taliban officials and the opposition during his visit to
Afghanistan, in an effort to demonstrate presidential commitment to peace in
Afghanistan and to discuss extradition of bin Laden. At the same time, the United
States withheld recognition of Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan
and formally recognized no faction as the government. Based on the lack of broad
international recognition of Taliban, the United Nations seated representatives of the
former Rabbani government, not the Taliban. The United States closed its embassy
in Kabul in January 1989, just after the Soviet pullout from Afghanistan, and the
State Department ordered the Afghan embassy in Washington, D.C. closed in August
1997 because of a power struggle within the embassy between Rabbani and Taliban
Although press reports in May 2002 said the Bush Administration was
considering a plan to give military aid to the Northern Alliance prior to the
September 11 attacks, the Bush Administration continued the previous
Administration’s policy of maintaining a dialogue with the Taliban. In compliance
with U.N. Security Council Resolution 1333, in February 2001 the State Department
ordered the closing of a Taliban representative office in New York. The Taliban
complied with the directive, but its representative, Abdul Hakim Mujahid, continued
to operate informally. In March 2001, Bush Administration officials received a
Taliban envoy, Rahmatullah Hashemi, to discuss bilateral issues. Three State
Department officers visited Afghanistan in April 2001, the first U.S. visit since the
August 1998 bombings of Afghan camps, although the purpose of the visit was
described as assessing the humanitarian needs and not furthering U.S.-Taliban
As did the executive branch, Congress became highly critical of the Taliban well
before the September 11 attacks. Congress’ views were generally expressed in nonbinding legislation. A sense of the Senate resolution (S.Res. 275) that resolving the
Afghan civil war should be a top U.S. priority passed that chamber by unanimous
consent on September 24, 1996. A similar resolution, H.Con.Res. 218, passed the
House on April 28, 1998. In the 107th Congress, H.Con.Res. 26 was introduced on
February 8, 2001. The resolution expressed the sense of Congress that the United
States should seek to prevent the Taliban from obtaining Afghanistan’s U.N. seat and
should not recognize any government in Afghanistan that does not restore women’s
After September 11, legislative proposals on Afghanistan became significantly
more adversarial toward the Taliban. One bill, H.R. 3088, stated that it should be the
policy of the United States to remove the Taliban from power and authorized a
drawdown of up to $300 million worth of U.S. military supplies and services for the
anti-Taliban opposition. The bill, as well as another bill (H.R. 2998, introduced
October 2, 2001), would establish a “Radio Free Afghanistan” broadcasting service
under RFE/RL. On February 12, 2002, the House passed the Senate version of H.R.
2998 providing $17 million funding for the radio broadcasts for FY2002. President
Bush signed the bill into law on March 11, 2002 (P.L. 107-148).
Harboring of Al Qaeda
Even before the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Taliban’s refusal to yield Al
Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden to the United States (or a U.S. ally) for trial – and its
protection of radical Islamic movements more broadly – had become the overriding
bilateral agenda item in U.S. policy toward Afghanistan.21
Over the past few years, the United States had placed progressively more
pressure on the Taliban to extradite bin Laden, adding sanctions, some military
action, reported covert intelligence operations, and the threat of further punishments
to ongoing diplomatic efforts.
During his April 1998 visit, Ambassador Richardson asked the
Taliban to hand bin Laden over to U.S. authorities, but he was
On August 20, 1998, the United States fired cruise missiles at
alleged bin Laden-controlled terrorist training camps in retaliation
for the August 7, 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and
On July 4, 1999, because of the Taliban’s hosting of bin Laden,
President Clinton issued Executive Order 13129, imposing a ban on
U.S. trade with Taliban-controlled portions of Afghanistan and
blocking Taliban assets in U.S. financial institutions. The Taliban
was not designated as a terrorist group, nor was Afghanistan named
a state sponsor of terrorism. On August 10, 1999, the Clinton
Administration determined that Ariana Airlines represents Talibancontrolled property, thereby preventing Americans from using the
airline and triggering the blocking of about $500,000 in Ariana
assets identified in the United States. (President George W. Bush
revoked Executive Order 13129 on the grounds that the Taliban
government had been dismantled.)
On October 15, 1999, with Russian support, the United States
achieved adoption of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1267, the
first U.N. resolution sanctioning the Taliban regime. The resolution
banned flights outside Afghanistan by Ariana airlines and directed
U.N. member states to freeze Taliban assets. The resolution was in
For more information on bin Laden and his Al Qaeda organization, see CRS Report
RL31119, Terrorism: Near Eastern Groups and State Sponsors, 2001, September 10, 2001.
See also CRS Report RS20411, Afghanistan: Connections to Islamic Movements in Central
and South Asia and Southern Russia.
response to the Taliban’s refusal to hand bin Laden over to justice,
and it threatened further sanctions if it did not do so.
On December 19, 2000, again by combining diplomatic forces with Russia, the
United States achieved adoption of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1333, a followon to Resolution 1267, imposing even stricter sanctions against the Taliban. The
major additional provisions of the Resolution included: (1) a worldwide prohibition
against the provision of arms or military advice to the Taliban, and a requirement
(directed against Pakistan) that all countries withdraw any military advisers that are
helping the Taliban; (2) a call for all countries that recognize the Taliban to reduce
the size of Taliban representative missions in their countries, and for all other
countries to close completely all Taliban offices and Ariana Afghan airline offices
and ban all nonhumanitarian assistance flights into or out of Taliban-controlled
Afghanistan; (3) a requirement that all countries freeze any bin Laden/Al Qaeda
assets that can be identified; (4) a prohibition on any supply to areas under Taliban
control of the chemical acetic anhydride, which is used to produce heroin; and (5) a
ban on foreign travel by all Taliban officials at or above the rank of Deputy Minister,
except for the purposes of participation in peace negotiations, compliance with the
resolution or 1267, or humanitarian reasons, including religious obligations.
On July 30, 2001, the U.N. Security Council adopted an implementing
Resolution 1363. The resolution provided for the stationing of monitors in Pakistan,
to ensure that no weapons or military advice was being provided by the Taliban.
Pakistan’s pledge to cooperate with the U.S. response to the September 11, 2001
attacks led to the virtual end of Pakistan’s supply of arms and military advice to the
In the aftermath of the Taliban’s ouster from power, these provisions were
narrowed to focus on Al Qaeda, and not the Taliban, by U.N. Security Council
Resolution 1390 of January 17, 2002. As noted above, U.S. troops and their coalition
partners continue to try to find and combat any remaining Al Qaeda fighters in
Afghanistan. There are concerns that Al Qaeda activists have been responsible for
assassination attempts and a few bombings or attempted bombings of Afghan and
coalition facilities that have taken place since the post-Taliban government took
Human Rights/Treatment of Women
The groups that have assumed power from the Taliban are widely considered
far less repressive of women than was the Taliban, although some of the factions now
part of the ruling coalition, including the Northern Alliance, have been accused of
significant human rights abuses in the past. Taliban human rights practices, and
especially its treatment of women, received U.S. and international condemnation.
Seeking to enforce its brand of puritan Islam, the Taliban subjected women to
limitations on social participation, working, and education. At various times in the
past, the Taliban’s treatment of women had forced many United Nations and other
aid organizations, including the U.N. High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR),
UNICEF, Save the Children, and Oxfam, to cut back or cease operations, either in
protest or for lack of available (female) staff.22 Women were forced to wear a headto-toe veil (burqa) in public, and they could not ride in vehicles unless accompanied
by a male relative.
Following the Taliban collapse, women in Kabul are said to be reverting to the
less restrictive behavior practiced before the Taliban fled. The burqa is no longer
obligatory, although many women continue to wear it by tradition or because of fear
or uncertainty of the new government’s attitudes on the issue. Two women hold
positions in the new government, and many women are returning to the jobs they
held before the Taliban came to power. As noted above, girls returned to school
March 23, 2002, for the first time since the Taliban took over, and many female
teachers have resumed their teaching jobs.
Before the war, there was significant U.S. and U.N. pressure on the Taliban
regime to moderate its treatment of women. Several U.N. Security Council
resolutions, including 1193 (August 28, 1998), and 1214 (December 8, 1998), urged
the Taliban to end discrimination against women. During a November 1997 visit to
Pakistan, then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright attacked Taliban policies as
despicable and intolerable. U.S. women’s rights groups like Feminist Majority and
the National Organization for Women (NOW) mobilized to stop the Clinton
Administration from recognizing the Taliban government unless it altered its
treatment of women. On May 5, 1999, the Senate passed S.Res. 68, a resolution
calling on the President not to recognize any Afghan government that refuses to end
discrimination against women. On November 27, 2001, the House unanimously
adopted S. 1573, the Afghan Women and Children Relief Act, which had earlier
passed the Senate. The law (signed December 12, 2001) calls for the use of
supplemental funding (appropriated by P.L. 107-38) to fund educational and health
programs for Afghan women and children. The United States and the new Afghan
government have set up a U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council to coordinate the allocation
of resources so as to improve the future of Afghan women. It is chaired on the U.S.
side by Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky, and on the
Afghan side by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and of Women’s Affairs.
Destruction of Buddha Statues. The Taliban’s critics pointed to its March
2001 destruction of two large Buddha statues, dating to the 7th century, as evidence
of the Taliban’s excesses. The Taliban claimed it ordered the destruction of the
statues, which it considered un-Islamic, after representatives of the United Nations
Economic, Social, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) offered to fund
preservation of the statues. Others believe the move was a reaction to new U.N.
sanctions imposed in December 2000 (see below). The destruction provoked
widespread condemnation, even among other Islamic states, including Pakistan.
Some international groups are looking at the possibility of rebuilding the statues,
although at least one group has said doing so will be extremely difficult technically.
Hindu Badges. In May 2001, the Taliban said it was considering requiring
non-Muslims to wear identity labels on their clothing to distinguish them from
Cooper, Kenneth, “Kabul Women Under Virtual House Arrest.” Washington Post,
October 7, 1996. A1.
Muslims. The Taliban explained the move as an effort to prevent non-Muslims from
being harassed by Taliban security forces for not attending Muslim prayer, which is
compulsory for Muslims. The announcement received worldwide condemnation and
was not implemented before the Taliban was ousted. There are believed to be only
two Jews left in Afghanistan, so the move was not viewed as being directed against
Jews, even though the policy evoked memories of the treatment of Jews in Nazi
On the other hand, many say that the Taliban brought order and peace to the
areas it captured by disarming independent militiamen. By imposing central
authority and cracking down on banditry, it opened some roads to free commerce
leading to a greater availability of food in many areas under its control. Press
accounts say that the streets were safer, fewer people carried guns, and there were
very few murders during Taliban rule.23 Others add that Taliban rule approximated
the traditional practice of Islam found in those parts of Afghanistan dominated by
Pashtuns and did not represent a radical departure for Afghanistan.
Since the interim administration took office, there have been some reports of
reprisals and other abuses based on ethnicity in certain parts of Afghanistan,
particularly against Pashtuns living in largely Tajik and Uzbek northern Afghanistan.
Virtually all observers agree that Afghans are freer than they were under the Taliban,
although the interim administration is relatively young, and many want to evaluate
its human rights practices over a longer period of time.
One issue on which the Taliban apparently satisfied much of the international
community was counternarcotics. The Taliban apparently enforced its July 2000 ban
on poppy cultivation. In February 2001, U.N. International Drug Control Program
(UNDCP) officials said that surveys showed a dramatic drop in poppy cultivation in
the areas surveyed.24 The Northern Alliance did not issue a similar ban in areas it
controlled. In April 2001, amid signs the Taliban was enforcing its poppy ban, the
United States began funding a UNDCP program to assist former poppy cultivators
in Afghanistan. The United States contributed $1.5 million to that crop substitution
program in FY2001. Despite the Taliban’s performance on drug issues, in March
2002, Afghanistan was determined by the Bush Administration to have “failed
demonstrably to make substantial efforts” during the past 12 months to adhere to
international counternarcotics agreements and take certain counternarcotics measures
set forth in U.S. law. (This is equivalent to the listing by the United States, as
Afghanistan has been listed every year since 1987, as a state that is uncooperative
with U.S. efforts to eliminate drug trafficking or has failed to take sufficient steps on
its own to curb trafficking.) With the Taliban defeated, President Bush waived
sanctions resulting from this listing on the grounds that providing assistance is in the
vital national interest of the United States (see section on sanctions, below).
Schork, Kurt, “Taleban Admits To Problem Of Image, Not Substance.” Reuters,
November 25, 1997.
Crossette, Barbara. “Taliban Seem to Be Making Good on Opium Ban, U.N. Says.” New
York Times, February 7, 2001.
The Bonn agreement mentions the need for a post-Taliban Afghanistan
government to prevent Afghanistan’s re-emergence as a haven for drug cultivation,
and the Bush Administration is focusing some post-Taliban resources on counternarcotics. The interim government banned poppy cultivation, although it has had
difficulty enforcing the ban due to resource limitations and opposition from Afghan
farmers who see few alternatives. In early February 2002, the U.S. military exerted
pressure on Afghan opium dealers in Qandahar to close the operations of their
market. This came amid Bush Administration warnings that opium trafficking and
heroin processing had continued unabated in 2001, suggesting substantial stockpiling
despite the Taliban ban. The U.N. Drug Control Program estimated in August 2002
that 3,000 tons of opium crop would be produced in Afghanistan in 2002, restoring
Afghanistan to its previous place as the world’s top opium producer.25 On the other
hand, the U.S. military is opposed to its conducting poppy crop eradication in
Retrieval of U.S. Stingers
Beginning in late 1985 and following an internal debate, the Reagan
Administration provided “hundreds” of man-portable “Stinger” anti-aircraft missiles
to the mujahedin for use against Soviet combat helicopters and aircraft. Prior to the
U.S.-led war against the Taliban and Al Qaeda, common estimates among experts
suggested that 200-300 Stingers remained at large in Afghanistan out of about 1,000
provided during the war against the Soviet Union.27 In the aftermath of the Soviet
withdrawal from Afghanistan, the United States had tried to retrieve the at-large
Stingers.28 The United States feared that the missiles could fall into the hands of
terrorist groups for possible use against civilian airliners. Iran bought 16 of the
missiles in 1987 and fired one against U.S. helicopters; some reportedly were
transferred to Lebanese Hizballah, according to press reports in January 2002. India
claimed that it was a Stinger, supplied to Islamic rebels in Kashmir probably by
sympathizers in Afghanistan, that shot down an Indian helicopter over Kashmir in
The practical difficulties of retrieving the weapons had caused this issue to fade
from the U.S. agenda for Afghanistan. In 1992, the United States reportedly spent
about $10 million to buy the Stingers back, at a premium, from individual mujahedin
commanders. The New York Times reported on July 24, 1993, that the buy back
effort failed because the United States was competing with other buyers, including
Iran and North Korea, and that the CIA would spend about $55 million in FY1994
in a renewed Stinger buy-back effort. On March 7, 1994, the Washington Post
Armitage, Tom. U.N. Sees Afghan Opium Cultivation Soaring in 2002. Reuters, February
Gertz, Bill. Military Opposes Spraying Poppies. Washington Times, March 25, 2002.
Saleem, Farrukh. Where Are the Missing Stinger Missiles? Pakistan, Friday Times.
August 17-23, 2001.
Gertz, Bill. Stinger Bite Feared in CIA. Washington Times, October 9, 2000.
“U.S.-Made Stinger Missiles – Mobile and Lethal.” Reuters, May 28, 1999.
reported that the CIA had recovered only a fraction of the at-large Stingers. Many
observers speculate that the CIA program retrieved perhaps 50 or 100 Stingers.
According to Defense Intelligence Agency testimony in 1996,30 an unspecified
number of man-portable surface-to-air missiles (Stingers) remain in Afghanistan.31
The Stinger issue resurfaced in conjunction with the U.S. war effort. U.S. pilots
reported that the Taliban fired some Stingers at U.S. aircraft during the war, but they
recorded no hits. Any Stingers that survived the anti-Taliban war are likely
controlled by Afghans now allied to the United States and would presumably pose
less of a threat. In early February 2002, the interim government collected and
returned to the United States “dozens” of Stingers and said it would continue to try
to find and return additional Stingers.32
Landmines laid during the Soviet occupation constitute one of the principal
dangers to the Afghan people. The United Nations estimates that 5 -7 million mines
remain scattered throughout the country, although some estimates by outside
organizations are significantly lower. An estimated 400,000 Afghans have been
killed or wounded by landmines. U.N. teams have succeeded in destroying one
million mines and are now focusing on de-mining priority-use, residential and
commercial property, including land surrounding Kabul. As shown in the U.S. aid
table for FY1999-FY2002, the United States Humanitarian Demining Program was
providing about $3 million per year for Afghanistan demining activities, and the
amount has escalated to $7 million for the post-Taliban period. Most of the funds go
to the HALO Trust, a British organization, and the U.N. Mine Action Program for
Assistance and Reconstruction
Since the Soviet invasion, Afghanistan has faced major humanitarian
difficulties, some of which deteriorated further under Taliban rule. In addition to 3.6
million Afghan refugees at the start of the U.S.-led war,33 another 500,000 Afghans
were displaced internally even before U.S. military action began, according to
Secretary General Annan’s April 19, 2001 report on Afghanistan. Many of the
displaced persons had fled the effects of a major drought that affected the 85% of the
population that directly depends on agriculture. Some Afghan refugees are now
members of a third generation to live outside Afghanistan, although almost 1.4
Afghan refugees have returned since January 2002. The conflicts in Afghanistan,
including the war against the Soviet Union, have reportedly left about 2 million dead,
John Moore, before the House International Relations Committee. May 9, 1996.
Common estimates in a variety of press reports suggest that 200-300 Stingers may remain
at large in Afghanistan.
Fullerton, John. “Afghan Authorities Hand in Stinger Missiles to U.S.” Reuters,
February 4, 2002.
About 1.5 million Afghan refugees were in Iran; 2 million in Pakistan; 20,000 in Russia;
17,000 in India, and 9,000 in the Central Asian states.
700,000 widows and orphans and about one million Afghan children who were born
and raised in refugee camps outside Afghanistan.
As part of its military operations, the United States air-dropped food rations to
help alleviate suffering. Following the Taliban collapse, aid routes via Uzbekistan
and Pakistan reopened, largely eliminating the need for the airdrops. A variety of
U.N. agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGO’s) serve as the vehicles for
international assistance to Afghanistan. The U.N. High Commission for Refugees
(UNHCR) supervises Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan and Afghan repatriation.
U.S. Assistance Issues. To address humanitarian concerns, the United
States had become the largest single provider of assistance to the Afghan people,
even before the crisis triggered by the September 11 attacks. In 1985, the United
States began a cross-border aid program for Afghanistan, through which aid was
distributed in Afghanistan, via U.S. aid workers in Pakistan. However, citing
budgetary constraints and the difficulty of administering a cross-border program,
there was no USAID mission for Afghanistan after the end of FY1994, and U.S. aid
has been provided through various channels, mostly U.N. agencies and NGO’s.
Primarily because of a drought and the widely publicized suffering of the
Afghan people, U.S. aid to the Afghan people in FY2001 greatly exceeded that
provided in FY2000 or FY1999. No U.S. assistance went directly to the Taliban
government. Table 2 breaks down FY1999-FY2002 aid by program. According to
the USAID fact sheet issued September 27, 2001, the United States provided about
$183 million in assistance to the Afghan people in FY2001. For a history of U.S. aid
to Afghanistan (FY1978-FY1998), see Table 3.
On October 4, 2001, in an effort to demonstrate that the United States has an
interest in the welfare of the Afghan people and not just the defeat of the Taliban,
President Bush announced that humanitarian aid to the Afghan people would total
about $320 million for FY2002. This includes food, blankets, medicine, and shelter
for Afghan refugees in states bordering Afghanistan and the people inside
Afghanistan. The amounts provided thus far in FY2002 are listed in the table; the
figures include both humanitarian and reconstruction aid, totaling over $505 million
for FY2002 as of August 16, 2002. The conference report on the FY2002 foreign aid
appropriation (H.Rept. 107-354, P.L. 107-115) contains a sense of Congress
provision that the United States should contribute substantial humanitarian assistance
to Afghanistan, although no dollar figures are mentioned.
Reconstruction Aid. The United States also pledged substantial
reconstruction assistance for a post-Taliban Afghanistan. Common estimates of
reconstruction needs run up to about $10 billion. In conjunction with a donors’
conference in Tokyo during January 20-21, 2002, the United States pledged $296
million in reconstruction aid for Afghanistan for FY2002. That amount is drawn
from existing FY2002 appropriations and the emergency September 11-related
supplemental appropriation enacted in September 2001.
U.S. reconstruction funds have been used for various “quick impact” programs.
These programs include $6.5 million for 9.7 million school textbooks; $7 million for
agricultural rehabilitation, programs for women (about $15 million in FY2002), and
support to the interim administration; $5 million for health services infrastructure;
$1 million for the rehabilitation of landmine victims and other disabled persons
(Leahy War Victims Fund); and funding to rebuild the Ministry of Women’s Affairs
building ($64,000) and to distribute radios to localities to disseminate information
on humanitarian aid. The United States is forwarding donations from American
citizens for the rebuilding of Kabul University.
A bill, H.R. 3994, which was marked up by the House International Relations
Committee on March 19, 2002 and passed by the House on May 21, 2002, authorizes
$1.05 billion in U.S. reconstruction assistance during FY2002-FY2005 ($200 million
in FY2002; $300 million in each of FY2003 and FY2004, and $250 million in
FY2005). The bill also authorizes $15 million per year for FY2002-2005 for
counternarcotics, and $10 million per year for FY2002-FY2005 for the loya jirga and
local political development. A similar bill in the Senate (S. 2712, introduced July 9,
2002) would authorize $2.5 billion in reconstruction aid during FY2002-FY2005, of
which $500 million would be for an enterprise fund, plus an additional $1 billion to
expand ISAF if such an expansion takes place. Both bills authorize $300 million in
defense, crime control, and counter-narcotics articles and services.
The conference report on a FY2002 supplemental appropriation (H.R. 4775,
P.L. 107-480) recommends $134 million in additional aid to Afghanistan. These
funds will likely be used for U.S. aid to Afghanistan, humanitarian and
reconstruction, during FY2003. (For more information on aid to Afghanistan
provided by the FY2002 supplemental appropriation, including aid to help Afghan
civilian victims of U.S. airstrikes, see CRS Report RL31406, Supplemental
Appropriation for FY2002: Combatting Terrorism and Other Issues, by Amy
Belasco and Larry Nowels.)
In addition, the U.S. Treasury Department (Office of Foreign Assets Control,
OFAC) has unblocked over $145 million in assets of Afghan government owned
banking entities that were frozen under U.S. sanctions imposed on the Taliban in
1999 (see below). These funds are to be used by the new government for currency
stabilization, not for recurring costs of the interim government. Most of the funds
consist of gold that will be held in Afghanistan’s name in the United States to back
up Afghanistan’s currency. In January 2002, the United States also has agreed to
provide $50 million in credit for U.S. investment in Afghanistan, provided by the
Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC). The United States also has
successfully pressed the International Air Transport Association to pay Afghanistan
$20 million in overflight fees that were withheld because of U.N. sanctions on the
Taliban. In April 2002, OFAC unblocked $17 million in privately-owned Afghan
assets. In May 2002, the World Bank reopened its office in Afghanistan after twenty
At the donors’ conference, the following international reconstruction pledges
were announced: European Union - $500 million in 2002; Japan - $500 million over
the next 30 months; Germany - $362 million over the next 4 years; Saudi Arabia $220 million over the next 3 years; Iran - $560 million over the next 5 years;
Pakistan - $100 million over the next 5 years; India - a $100 million line of credit;
South Korea - $45 million over 30 months; and United Kingdom - $86 million in
2002. Total pledges in Tokyo for reconstruction amounted to $1.8 billion to be spent
in 2002 and $4.5 billion over the next 5 years. Of the amounts 2002 pledged for
2002, about half has been received by the United Nations as of July 2002.
Promoting Long-Term Economic Development
In an effort to find a long-term solution to Afghanistan’s acute humanitarian
problems, the United States has, when feasible, tried to promote major development
projects as a means of improving Afghan living standards and political stability over
the long term. During 1996-98, the Administration supported proposed natural gas
and oil pipelines through western Afghanistan as an incentive for the warring factions
to cooperate. One proposal by a consortium led by Los Angeles-based Unocal
Corporation34 was for a Central Asia Oil Pipeline (CAOP) that would originate at the
Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan border and extend through the western region of
Afghanistan to Pakistan. A $2.5 billion Central Asia Gas Pipeline (CentGas) would
originate in southern Turkmenistan and pass through Afghanistan to Pakistan, with
possible extensions into India.
The deterioration in U.S.-Taliban relations after 1998 largely ended hopes for
the pipeline projects while the Taliban was in power. Immediately after the August
20,1998 U.S. strikes on bin Laden’s bases in Afghanistan, Unocal suspended all its
Afghan pipeline-related activities, including a U.S.-based training program for
Afghans who were expected to work on the project. With few prospects of improved
U.S. relations with Taliban, Unocal withdrew from its consortium in December 1998.
Saudi Delta Oil was made interim project leader, although Delta lacked the financing
and technology to make the consortium viable. The rival consortium led by Bridas
of Argentina reportedly continued to try to win approval for its proposal to undertake
Prospects for the project have improved in the post-Taliban period. In a summit
meeting in late May 2002 between the leaders of Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and
Pakistan, the three countries agreed to revive the gas pipeline project. Sponsors of
the project held an inaugural meeting on July 9, 2002 in Turkmenistan, signing a
series of preliminary agreements. However, financing for the project is unclear.
Other participants in the Unocal consortium include: Delta of Saudi Arabia, Hyundai of
South Korea, Crescent Steel of Pakistan, Itochu Corporation and INPEX of Japan, and the
government of Turkmenistan. Some accounts say Russia’s Gazprom would probably
receive a stake in the project. Moscow Nezavisimaya Gazeta, October 30, 1997. Page 3.
Table 1. Major Factions in Afghanistan
Areas of Control
(dominant party in the
(political leader), Tajik
Most of northern and
Fahim is Vice
Dr. Abdullah is
Rabbani holds no
Forces of Ismail Khan
(part of Northern
Herat Province and
environs; Khan’s son
Eastern Shura (loosely
allied with Northern
No clear leader,
of Abdul Qadir;
environs; Qadir was
new vice president.
Movement of Afghanistan Dostam
(part of Northern
Mazar Sharif and
was deputy defense
minister in interim
(part of Northern
Khalili is a vice
Small groups hiding
Table 2. U.S. Aid to Afghanistan in FY1999-FY2002
($ in millions)
U.S. Department of
and USAID Food
For Peace, via
via UNHCR and
Office of Foreign
Aid to Afghan
Iran, and to
NGO’s to aid
for May 2000
Title II, and
$7.0 to Halo
U.N. Drug Control
Office of Transition
Dept. of Defense
(as of 7/3)
$50.9 ( 2.4
Table 3. U.S. Assistance to Afghanistan FY1978-1998
($ in millions)
(Title I and II)
(Soviet invasion - December 1979)
Source: U.S. Department of State.
* Includes $3 million for demining and $1.2 million for counternarcotics.
** Includes $3.3 million in projects targeted for Afghan women and girls, $7 million in earthquake
relief aid, 100,000 tons of 416B wheat worth about $15 million, $2 million for demining, and
$1.54 for counternarcotics.
U.S. and International Sanctions
Shoring up a post-Taliban government of Afghanistan with financial and other
assistance has required waivers of restrictions or the permanent modification of U.S.
and U.N. sanctions previously imposed on Afghanistan. Some of these modifications
or waivers are in progress. Sanctions in place include the following:
On May 2, 1980, Afghanistan was deleted from the list of designated
beneficiary countries under the U.S. GSP, denying Afghanistan’s
exports duty free treatment, by Executive Order 12204 (45 F.R.
20740). This was done under the authority of Section 504 of the
Trade Act of 1974, as amended [P.L. 93-618; 19 U.S.C. 2464].
On June 3, 1980, as part of the sanctions against the Soviet Union
for the invasion of Afghanistan, the United States imposed controls
on exports to Afghanistan of agricultural products, oil and gas
exploration and production equipment, and phosphates. This was
implemented at 15 CFR Part 373 et seq (45 F.R. 37415) under the
authority of Sections 5 and 6 of the Export Administration Act of
1979 [P.L. 96-72; 50 U.S.C. app. 2404, app. 2405]. On April 24,
1981, these sanctions were modified to terminate controls on U.S.
exports to Afghanistan of agricultural products and phosphates.
In mid-1992, the Bush Administration determined that Afghanistan
no longer had a “Soviet-controlled government.” This opened
Afghanistan to the use of U.S. funds made available for the U.S.
share of U.N. organizations that provide assistance to Afghanistan.
On October 7, 1992, President George H.W. Bush issued
Presidential Determination 93-3 that Afghanistan is no longer a
Marxist-Leninist country. The designation as such a country had
prohibited Afghanistan from receiving Export-Import Bank
guarantees, insurance, or credits for purchases under Sec. 8 of the
1986 Export-Import Bank Act, which amended Section 2(b)(2) of
the Export-Import Bank Act of 1945 (P.L. 79-173, 12 U.S.C. 635).
However, President George H.W. Bush’s determination was not
implemented before he left office.
President Bush’s October 7, 1992 determination (93-3) also found
that assistance to Afghanistan under Section 620D of the Foreign
Assistance Act is in the national interest of the United States because
of the change of regime in Afghanistan. The presidential
determination, had it been implemented in regulations, would have
waived restrictions on assistance to Afghanistan provided for in the
Act, as amended [P.L. 87-195; 22 U.S.C. 2374]; as added by Section
505 of the International Development Cooperation Act of 1979 [P.L.
96-53]. These provisions prohibit foreign assistance to Afghanistan
until it apologizes for the death of U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan
Adolph Dubs, who was kidnapped in Kabul in 1979 and killed when
Afghan police stormed the hideout where he was held, unless the
President determines that such assistance is in the national interest
because of changed circumstances in Afghanistan.
On May 3, 2002, President Bush restored normal trade treatment to
the products of Afghanistan. Section 552 of the Foreign Assistance
Appropriations for FY1986 [P.L. 99-190] authorized the President
to deny any U.S. credits or most-favored-nation (MFN) tariff status
for Afghanistan. Under that law, on February 18, 1986, the height
of the Soviet occupation, President Reagan had issued Presidential
Proclamation 5437, suspending (MFN) tariff status for Afghanistan
(51 F.R. 4287).
On March 31, 1993, President Clinton, on national interest grounds,
waived restrictions provided for in Section 481 (h) of the Foreign
Assistance Act of 1961, as amended [P.L. 87-195]; as amended and
restated by Section 2005(a) of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986
[P.L. 99-570]. The waiver was renewed in 1994. Mandatory
sanctions include bilateral aid cuts and suspensions, including denial
of Ex-Im Bank credits; the casting of negative U.S. votes for
multilateral development bank loans; and a non-allocation of a U.S.
sugar quota. Discretionary sanctions included denial of Generalized
System of Preferences (GSP); additional duties on country exports
to the United States; and curtailment of air transportation with the
United States. On February 25, 2002, President Bush waived
restrictions on FY2002 aid to Afghanistan under this Act.
On June 14, 1996, Afghanistan was formally added to the list of
countries prohibited from receiving exports or licenses for exports
of U.S. defense articles and services. This amended the International
Traffic in Arms Regulations (22 CFR Part 121 et seq.) under the
authority of Section 38 of the Arms Export Control Act, as amended
(P.L. 90-629; 22 U.S.C. 2778) by adding Afghanistan at Section
126.1 of 22 CFR Part 126. On July 2, 2002, the State Department
amended U.S. regulations (22 CFR Part 126) to allow arms sales to
the new Afghan government.
In a ruling largely redundant with the one above, on May 15, 1997,
the State Department designated Afghanistan under the
Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (P.L. 104132), as a state that is not cooperating with U.S. anti-terrorism
efforts. The designation, made primarily because of Taliban’s
harboring of bin Laden, makes Afghanistan ineligible to receive U.S.
exports of items on the U.S. Munitions List. The designation was
repeated every year since 1997. Afghanistan was deleted from the
list of non-cooperative states when the list was reissued on May 15,
2002, thereby eliminating this sanction on Afghanistan.
On July 4, 1999, the President declared a national emergency with
respect to Taliban because of its hosting of bin Laden, and issued
Executive order 13129 that imposed sanctions. The sanctions
include the blocking of Taliban assets and property in the United
States, and a ban on U.S. trade with Taliban-controlled areas of
Afghanistan. On August 10, 1999, the Administration determined
that Ariana Afghan Airlines was a Taliban entity.
determination triggered a blocking of Ariana assets (about $500,000)
in the United States and a ban on U.S. citizens’ flying on the airline.
On January 29, 2002, the State Department issued a determination
that the Taliban controls no territory within Afghanistan, thus
essentially ending this trade ban. On July 2, 2002, President Bush
formally revoked this Executive order.
On October 15, 1999, the U.N. Security Council adopted Resolution
1267. See section on the harboring of bin Laden for the sanctions
imposed under this resolution.
As noted above, U.N. Security Council Resolution 1333 of
December 19, 2000, imposed a number of new sanctions against the
Taliban. For the provisions, see the section on the harboring of bin
Laden. As noted, this sanction was narrowed to penalize only Al
Qaeda by virtue of the adoption of U.N. Security Council Resolution
1390 of January 17, 2002.
Map of Afghanistan
Map adapted by CRS from Magellan Geographix.