Description 2012: Strategic Agreement
Taliban attacks continued at the same rate as they did in 2011, remaining around 28,000 Taliban "enemy initiated" attacks.
Reformation of the United Front (Northern Alliance)
Ahmad Zia Massoud (left), then as Vice President of Afghanistan, shaking hands with a U.S. Provincial Reconstruction Team at the ceremony for a new road. He is now the chairman of the National Front of Afghanistan
In late 2011 the National Front of Afghanistan (NFA) was created by Ahmad Zia Massoud, Abdul Rashid Dostum and Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq in what many analysts have described as a reformation of the military wing of the United Front (Northern Alliance) to oppose a return of the Taliban to power. Meanwhile, much of the political wing reunited under the National Coalition of Afghanistan led by Abdullah Abdullah becoming the main democratic opposition movement in the Afghan parliament. Former head of intelligence Amrullah Saleh has created a new movement, Basej-i Milli (Afghanistan Green Trend), with support among the youth mobilizing about 10,000 people in an anti-Taliban demonstration in Kabul in May 2011.
In January 2012, the National Front of Afghanistan raised concerns about the possibility of a secret deal between the US, Pakistan and the Taliban during a widely publicized meeting in Berlin. U.S. Congressman Louie Gohmert wrote, "These leaders who fought with embedded Special Forces to initially defeat the Taliban represent over 60-percent of the Afghan people, yet are being entirely disregarded by the Obama and Karzai Administrations in negotiations." After the meeting with US congressmen in Berlin the National Front signed a joint declaration stating among other things:
"We firmly believe that any negotiation with the Taliban can only be acceptable, and therefore effective, if all parties to the conflict are involved in the process. The present form of discussions with the Taliban is flawed, as it excludes anti-Taliban Afghans. It must be recalled that the Taliban extremists and their Al-Qaeda supporters were defeated by Afghans resisting extremism with minimal human embedded support from the United States and International community. The present negotiations with the Taliban fail to take into account the risks, sacrifices and legitimate interests of the Afghans who ended the brutal oppression of all Afghans.
—National Front Berlin Statement, January 2012
High-profile U.S. military incidents
U.S. Army soldiers prepare to conduct security checks near the Pakistan border, February 2012
Beginning in January 2012 incidents involving US troops occurred which were described by The Sydney Morning Herald as "a series of damaging incidents and disclosures involving US troops in Afghanistan […]". These incidents created fractures in the partnership between Afghanistan and ISAF, raised the question whether discipline within U.S. troops was breaking down, undermined "the image of foreign forces in a country where there is already deep resentment owing to civilian deaths and a perception among many Afghans that US troops lack respect for Afghan culture and people" and strained the relations between Afghanistan and the United States. Besides an incident involving US troops who posed with body parts of dead insurgents and an video apparently showing a US helicopter crew singing "Bye-bye Miss American Pie" before blasting a group of Afghan men with a Hellfire missile these "high-profile U.S. military incidents in Afghanistan" also included the 2012 Afghanistan Quran burning protests and the Panjwai shooting spree.
Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement
On 2 May 2012, Presidents Karzai and Obama signed a strategic partnership agreement between the two countries, after the US president had arrived unanounced in Kabul on the first anniversary of Osama bin Laden's death. The U.S.-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Agreement, officially entitled the "Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the United States of America", provides the long-term framework for the two countries' relationship after the drawdown of U.S. forces. The Strategic Partnership Agreement went into effect on 4 July 2012, according to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on 8 July 2012 at the Tokyo Conference on Afghanistan. On 7 July 2012, as part of the agreement, the U.S. designated Afghanistan a major non-NATO ally after Karzai and Clinton met in Kabul. On 11 November 2012, as part of the agreement, the two countries launched negotiations for a bilateral security agreement.
NATO Chicago Summit: Troops withdrawal and long-term presence
Further information: 2012 Chicago Summit, 2011 NATO attack in Pakistan and Withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan
On 21 May 2012 the leaders of NATO-member countries endorsed an exit strategy during the NATO Summit. ISAF Forces would transfer command of all combat missions to Afghan forces by the middle of 2013, while shifting from combat to advising, training and assisting Afghan security forces. Most of the 130,000 ISAF troops would depart by the end of December 2014. A new NATO mission would then assume the support role.
Karzai visited the U.S. in January 2012. At the time the U.S. stated its openness to withdrawing all of its troops by the end of 2014. On 11 January 2012 Karzai and Obama agreed to transfer combat operations from NATO to Afghan forces by spring 2013 rather than summer 2013.
"What's going to happen this spring is that Afghans will be in the lead throughout the country", Obama said. "They [ISAF forces] will still be fighting alongside Afghan troops...We will be in a training, assisting, advising role." Obama added He also stated the reason of the withdrawals that "We achieved our central goal, or have come very close...which is to de-capacitate al-Qaeda, to dismantle them, to make sure that they can't attack us again," .
Obama also stated that he would determine the pace of troop withdrawal after consultations with commanders. He added that any U.S. mission beyond 2014 would focus solely on counterterrorism operations and training. Obama insisted that a continuing presence must include an immunity agreement in which US troops are not subjected to Afghan law. "I can go to the Afghan people and argue for immunity for U.S. troops in Afghanistan in a way that Afghan sovereignty will not be compromised, in a way that Afghan law will not be compromised," Karzai replied.
Both leaders agreed that the United States would transfer Afghan prisoners and prisons to the Afghan government and withdraw troops from Afghan villages in spring 2013. "The international forces, the American forces, will be no longer present in the villages, that it will be the task of the Afghan forces to provide for the Afghan people in security and protection," the Afghan president said.
On 18 June 2013 the transfer of security responsibilities was completed. The last step was to transfer control of 95 remaining districts. Karzai said, "When people see security has been transferred to Afghans, they support the army and police more than before." NATO leader Rasmussen said that Afghan forces were completing a five-stage transition process that began in March 2011. "They are doing so with remarkable resolve," he said. "Ten years ago, there were no Afghan national security forces … now you have 350,000 Afghan troops and police." ISAF remained slated to end its mission by the end of 2014. Some 100,000 ISAF forces remained in the country.
U.S.–Afghanistan Bilateral Security agreement
As part of the U.S.–Afghanistan Strategic Partnership Agreement the United States and Afghanistan reached an agreement on a bilateral security agreement, on 20 November 2013. If approved, the agreement would allow the U.S. to deploy military advisors to train and equip Afghan security forces, along with U.S. special-operations troops for anti-terrorism missions against Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. President Obama will determine the size of the force. The bilateral security agreement was signed on September 30, 2014.
2014: Withdrawal continues and the insurgency increases
After 2013, Afghanistan has been shaken hard with suicide bombings by the Taliban. A clear example of this is a bombing of a Lebanese restaurant in the Wazir Akbar Khan area of Kabul on 18 February 2014. Among the dead in this attack was UN staff and the owner of the restaurant, who died protecting his business. 21 people altogether were killed. Meanwhile, the withdrawal continues with 200 more US troops alone coming home. The UK have halved their force and are slowing withdrawing with all but two bases being closed down. On 20 March 2014, more than 4 weeks after a bomb in a military bus by the Taliban rocked the city once again, a raid on the Serena hotel in Kabul by the Taliban resulted in the deaths of 9 people, including the 4 perpetrators. The attack came just 8 days after Swedish radio journalist Nils Horner was shot dead by the Taliban.
In March 2014, The Christian Science Monitor reported, "The good news is that so far, Russia has shown no inclination to use the NDN [Northern Distribution Network, key supply line to Afghanistan that runs through Russia] as leverage in the wake of US retaliation for its troop movements in Crimea."
On 9 June 2014 a coalition air strike mistakenly killed five U.S. troops, an Afghan National Army member and an interpreter in Zabul Province.
On 5 August 2014, a gunman in an Afghan military uniform opened fire on a number of U.S., foreign and Afghan soldiers, killing a U.S. general, Harold J. Greene and wounding about 15 officers and soldiers including a German brigadier general and a large number of U.S. soldiers at Camp Qargha, a training base west of Kabul.
Two longterm security pacts, the Bilaterial Security agreement between Afghanistan and the United States of America and the NATO Status of Forces Agreement betwenn NATO and Afghanistan, were signed on September 30, 2014. Both pacts lay out the framework for the foreign troop involvement in Afghnistan after the year 2014.
After 13 years Britain and the United States officially ended their combat operation in Afghanistan on October 26, 2014. On that day Britain handed over its last base in Afghanistan, Camp Bastion, while the United States handed over its last base, Camp Leatherneck, both based in the southern province of Helmand, to Afghan forces.
Post-2014 presence plans for NATO and the United States
As early as November 2012, the U.S. and NATO were considering the precise configuration of their post-2014 presence in Afghanistan. On 27 May 2014, President Barack Obama announced that U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan would end in December 2014. A residual force of 9,800 troops would remain in the country, training Afghan security forces and supporting counterterrorism operations against remnants of al-Qaeda. This force would be halved by the end of 2015, and consolidated at Bagram Air Base and in Kabul. Obama also announced that all U.S. forces, with the exception of a "normal embassy presence," would be removed from Afghanistan by the end of 2016. These plans were confirmed with the signing of the Bilateral Security Agreement between the United States and Afghanistan on 30 September 2014.