On April 23, 2021 the Pentagon released its Congressionally-mandated semiannual report, “Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan,” covering the period of 1 June 2020 through 30 November 2020.
For two decades, the United States’ primary strategic interest in Afghanistan has been to ensure that the country is never again used as a “safe haven” from which terrorists can launch attacks against the United States, its allies, or its interests abroad. As such, the United States continues to conduct two missions under Operation FREEDOM’S SENTINEL to support the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan’s (GIRoA) efforts to obtain a durable political settlement to end the ongoing civil conflict, mitigate the threats posed by violent extremist organizations (VEO), and promote stability Afghanistan. First, U.S. personnel participate in the NATO-led Resolute Support (RS) mission to train, advise, and assist the Ministries of Defense (MoD) and Interior (MoI), including administering $4 billion in annual Department of Defense (DOD)
Afghanistan Security Forces Fund (ASFF) security assistance. Second, they conduct a counterterrorism mission to counter threats from terrorist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-Khorasan Province (ISIS-K.)
During this reporting period (June 1, 2020 – November 30, 2020), representatives from GIRoA and the Taliban began Afghanistan Peace Negotiations (APN) in Doha, Qatar, in accordance with the February 2020 U.S.-Taliban Agreement. The start of APN represents a major milestone in pursuit of a durable political settlement in Afghanistan. Also during this reporting period, the United States continued to fulfill its obligations under the U.S.-Taliban agreement by implementing a conditions-based, phased reduction of troops (8,600 by July, 4,500 by November, and 2,500 by January 2021). On January 15, 2021, U.S. Force levels in Afghanistan have reached 2,500 as directed by President Trump and announced by Acting Secretary Christopher Miller on November 17, 2020.
Over the last six months, violence levels in Afghanistan remained above seasonal norms. The Taliban conducted numerous direct fire attacks against Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) checkpoints and initiated many other destructive attacks on critical infrastructure across the country. The United States continues to emphasize the need for a reduction in violence. ISIS-K also demonstrated its ability to plan and execute high-profile attacks in urban areas, despite losing its territorial strongholds in 2019 and adopting a clandestine cell-based network across the country.
Notably, however, attacks against U.S. and coalition personnel actually decreased during this period, largely as a result of stipulations in the U.S.- Taliban agreement. The United States remains committed to addressing these security threats using both diplomatic and military mechanisms.Other key developments during this reporting period include: the dissolution of the Afghan Local Police (ALP) and subsequent transition of personnel to the Afghan National Police (ANP) or Afghan National Army Territorial Forces (ANA-TF); completion of the MoD’s implementation of the Afghan Personnel and Pay System (APPS) to provide improved accountability for U.S. direct contributions of about $750 million annually of ASFF for ANA payroll and the MoI’s ongoing transition to APPS; and the ANDSF’s execution of several new Joint Orders intended to reduce casualties at checkpoints and improve coordination among the various ANDSF components. The United States will continue to work with its Afghan partners to ensure that these plans and programs are implemented successfully and work to the benefit of the Afghan population.