Fact Sheet: Bringing the U.S. War in Afghanistan to a Responsible End
Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States and Afghanistan have partnered together to respond to threats to international peace and security and to help the Afghan people chart a secure, democratic, and prosperous future. Since President Obama took office in 2009, we have pursued a focused strategy, alongside our NATO allies and partners, to strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan’s security forces and government to take full responsibility for their country’s future while we have struck significant blows against al-Qa’ida’s leadership and prevented Afghanistan from being used to launch attacks against our homeland. Today’s announcement by President Obama continues this strategy by responsibly drawing down the U.S. military presence to end our combat mission and giving the Afghan people the opportunity to succeed as they stand on their own.
Bringing our Troops Home
The troop surge that the President announced at West Point in December 2009 set the conditions that allowed us to push back the Taliban and build up Afghan forces. In June 2011, the President announced that we had completed the surge and would begin drawing down our forces from Afghanistan from a peak of 100,000 troops. He directed that troop reductions continue at a steady pace and in a planned, coordinated, and responsible manner. As a result, 10,000 troops came home by the end of that year, and 33,000 came home by the summer of 2012.
In February 2013, in his State of the Union address, the President announced that the United States would withdraw another 34,000 American troops from Afghanistan within a year -- which we have done.
Today the President announced a plan whereby another 22,000 troops will come home by the end of the year, ending the U.S. combat mission in December 2014. At the beginning of 2015, and contingent upon the Afghans signing a Bilateral Security Agreement and a status of forces agreement with NATO, we will have 9,800 U.S. service members in different parts of the country, together with our NATO allies and other partners. By the end of 2015, we would reduce that presence by roughly half, consolidating our troops in Kabul and on Bagram Airfield. One year later, by the end of 2016, we will draw down to a normal embassy presence in Kabul, with a security assistance component, as we have done in Iraq. Beyond 2014, the mission of our troops will be training Afghan forces and supporting counterterrorism operations against the remnants of al-Qa’ida.
Afghans Taking the Security Lead
At the 2010 NATO Summit in Lisbon, Afghanistan and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) nations agreed to transfer full responsibility for Afghanistan’s security to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) by the end of 2014. This transition process has allowed the international community to responsibly draw down our forces in Afghanistan, while preserving hard-won gains and setting the stage to achieve our core objectives -– disrupting threats posed by al-Qa’ida; supporting Afghan Security Forces; and giving the Afghan people the opportunity to succeed as they stand on their own.
At the 2012 NATO Summit in Chicago, Afghanistan and ISAF nations reaffirmed this framework for transition and agreed on a milestone in mid-2013 when the ISAF mission would begin to shift from combat to support. Last June, the Afghans reached that milestone as the ANSF assumed the lead for security across the whole of Afghanistan and our coalition forces shifted their focus to the training, advising, and assisting of Afghan forces.
Today, Afghan forces provide security for their people and plan and lead the fight against the insurgency. The most recent example of this transition was the effective security provided by the ANSF to enable the April presidential and provincial elections. The ANSF will maintain its current surge strength of 352,000 to reinforce this progress and provide for a secure environment in Afghanistan.
Commitment to the U.S.-Afghanistan Partnership
In May 2012, the President signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement between the United States and Afghanistan that defined a future in which Afghans are responsible for the security of their nation. The two countries pledged to build an equal partnership between two sovereign states premised on mutual respect and shared interests. U.S. commitments to support Afghanistan’s social and economic development, security, and institutions and to promote regional cooperation are matched by Afghan commitments to strengthen accountability, transparency, and oversight and to protect the human rights of all Afghans –- men and women. The Strategic Partnership Agreement includes mutual commitments in the areas of: protecting and promoting shared democratic values; advancing long-term security; reinforcing regional security and cooperation; social and economic development; and strengthening Afghan institutions and governance.
The United States continues to support a sovereign, stable, unified, and democratic Afghanistan and will continue our partnership based on the principles of mutual respect and mutual accountability. We remain fully supportive of our partners in the Afghan security forces, and we continue to proudly work side-by-side with the many Afghans who work to ensure the stability and prosperity of their fellow citizens.
International Support for Afghanistan
The United States’ support is part of an international effort to assist Afghanistan as it enters the “Transformation Decade” of 2015-2024. At the 2012 NATO Summit in Chicago, Afghanistan and NATO reaffirmed its commitment to further develop an enduring partnership that would last beyond the transition of full security responsibility for Afghanistan from ISAF to Afghan forces by the end of 2014. This commitment is a clear message to the Afghan people that they will not stand alone as they take responsibility for their security. At the 2012 Tokyo Conference, Afghanistan and the international community also committed to support the sustainable growth and development of Afghanistan. The international community pledged financial support, through 2017, at or near levels of the past decade, to respond to Afghanistan’s projected budget shortfalls.
As the Afghans took control for their security, they also worked to usher in a historic transfer of power in Afghanistan. We congratulate the millions of Afghans who voted in the presidential elections in April, and we look forward to the inauguration of their next president later this summer. The United States affirms its support for a fair, credible, and Afghan-led election process and does not support any candidate in the elections -- the choice of who leads Afghanistan is for Afghans alone.
The United States also believes that an Afghan-led peace and reconciliation process is the surest way to end violence and ensure lasting stability for Afghanistan and the region. As the President has said, the United States will support initiatives that bring Afghans together with other Afghans to discuss the future of their country. The United States and the Afghan government have called upon on the Taliban to join a political process. We have been clear that the outcomes of any peace and reconciliation process must be for the Taliban and other armed opposition groups to end violence, break ties with al-Qa’ida, and accept Afghanistan's constitution, including its protections for the rights of all Afghan citizens, both men and women.
We believe that a stable and prosperous Afghanistan can only be possible in a stable and prosperous region. We endorse Afghanistan’s vision for building strong, sustainable bilateral and multilateral relationships with its neighbors and regional partners. We encourage Afghanistan’s further economic integration into the region and support the principles of good-neighborly relations, which include non-interference and respect for sovereignty.
Afghanistan has experienced rapid economic growth and remarkable improvements in key social indicators:
- Afghanistan’s gross domestic product has grown an average of 9.4 percent per year from 2003 to 2012.
- In the last decade, life expectancy at birth has increased by 20 years to over 62 years.
- In 2002, an estimated 900,000 boys were in school and virtually no girls. Now there are 8 million students enrolled in school, more than a third of whom are girls.
- In 2002, only 6 percent of Afghans had access to reliable electricity. Today, 28 percent of the population has access to reliable electricity, including more than 2 million people in Kabul who now benefit from electric power 24 hours a day.
However, challenges remain, and Afghanistan will require continued international assistance to sustain its gains and further meet its development goals. In January 2013, the President reaffirmed the conclusions of the Tokyo Conference, including that the U.S. commitment to align 80 percent of our aid with Afghan priorities and channel at least 50 percent of development assistance through the national budget of the Afghan government as part of the Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework.