Afghanistan Defense and Foreign Policy

Foreign policy and defense

According to abbreviationfinder, Afghanistan is a nation in Southern Asia. Its capital city is Kabul. Since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, Afghanistan has been firmly attached to the United States and the rest of the Western world for its defense. His own army and police have failed to gain control of the entire country. Cooperation with neighboring countries in South Asia has become increasingly important.

afghanistan military spending and defense budget

During the 19th century, Afghanistan was threatened from the north by the Russian tsar and from the southeast by British India. The decades around the turn of the century, the British had a strong influence on Afghan foreign policy but never gained control of the country. The British presence helped to reduce the threat from Russia.

The most important legacy of the British era was the border line with what became Pakistan in 1947, the so-called Durand line that cuts straight through traditional Pashtunian territory. The line has never been recognized by Afghanistan as an official border.

  • Countryaah: Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Afghanistan for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.

During the 1950s, the United States and the Soviet Union competed for influence over Afghanistan through a series of development projects. US interest declined soon enough, as Afghanistan did not want any military cooperation, but Soviet contacts persisted. Following the communist takeover of the country in 1978, Soviet influence increased rapidly and by the end of 1979 Afghanistan was invaded by Soviet soldiers.

During the 1979-92 war, the Islamic resistance movement in Afghanistan received extensive support from Pakistan and the United States. Above all, Islamist movements favored Pakistani military dictator Mohammad Zia ul-Haq were favored.

Isolation under the Taliban regime

The guerrillas were also supported by Saudi Arabia, Iran and other Muslim states. The war against the Soviet Union placed Afghanistan at the center of the pretended struggle between Islam and the non-Islamic world and volunteers from many Muslim countries participated in the fighting on the guerrilla side.

During the Taliban regime 1996–2001, Afghanistan was isolated. Only three countries – Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – maintained diplomatic relations with the Taliban. Pakistan supported them organizationally and equipped the infrastructure in Taliban controlled areas. Both Arab states helped financially and Saudi Arabia also had a great ideological influence. Through Saudi influence, the Wahhabitic form of Islam gained some widespread use in Afghanistan (see Religion).

The United States contributed indirectly to the emergence of the Taliban through its large and uncontrolled supply of weapons and money to them through the Pakistani security service in the 1980s. The United States hoped that a Taliban regime would create stability that could benefit US companies’ oil and gas trade from Central Asia. For the United States, the Sunni extremist Taliban also emerged as a counterweight to Shiite Iran. The United States only renounced the Taliban when their human rights violations, in particular the abuses of women, became too obvious at the same time as the Taliban gained a stronger connection with the terrorist Usama bin Laden.

Depending on the outside world

After the fall of the Taliban regime, Afghanistan has become close to the Western powers. President Hamid Karzai and his government (2001–2014) depended on their existence by the NATO-led international force Isaf (see Modern History). From 2015, Afghanistan has largely been referred to its own forces, since the international presence was severely cut. However, the ability of the Afghan army and the police force to resist Taliban and other extremist groups has proved to be weak and the Taliban have gained ground. Economically, Afghanistan has remained dependent on foreign aid and its dependence appears to continue for the foreseeable future.

Since the beginning of the 2010s, the United States has held a series of talks with the Taliban to try to reach a solution to the conflict in Afghanistan. The host country is Qatar, where the Taliban have also set up a kind of diplomatic office. The United States calls for direct talks between the Kabul government and the Taliban, as the Afghan government does. However, the Taliban refuse to sit at the same table as the government, which they call “illegitimate”. The Taliban are only negotiating directly with the “occupying power”, that is, the United States.

In February 2020, success was achieved when the US and the Taliban signed a treaty in Qatar, which was to lay the groundwork for regular peace talks. The agreement means that the US will withdraw its forces from Afghanistan in exchange for the Taliban pledging not to make the country a haven for radical Islamist groups and terrorist networks such as al-Qaeda and IS. The government in Kabul was placed outside the agreement.

Distrust of Pakistan

Afghanistan has, for historical reasons, always regarded Pakistan with some suspicion. Pakistan has an interest in influence in the neighboring country to prevent India from affecting the Afghans. Former President Karzai repeatedly accused Pakistan of supporting the Taliban in order to undermine the Kabul government, and to shut down how extremist groups moved freely across the border between the countries.

From 2009, the governments of both countries began to take steps to create better relations and to cooperate with terrorist groups, partly as a result of Islamic extremists having begun to pose a fatal threat to the Pakistani state as well. In 2011, a trade agreement entered into force that gives Afghanistan access to the ports of the Pakistani cities of Karachi and Gwadar, as well as Pakistan the right to pass through Afghanistan to trade with the states of Central Asia.

When Pakistan launched a military offensive in the clan-controlled border areas where the Taliban and other resistance groups found a refuge in the summer of 2014, relations improved further as the Taliban’s opportunities to hide there diminished.

From 2015, relations with Pakistan deteriorated again, after Afghanistan accused the neighboring country of having contact with the perpetrators behind a series of attacks in Kabul and Ghazni. In 2017, Pakistan began to build a barrier along the border to prevent adversaries from entering the country, and gunfire between government soldiers on both sides of the border has repeatedly occurred.

Good relations with India

Relations with India have traditionally been good. Delhi sees a stable Afghanistan as a prerequisite in the fight against extremism and terrorism throughout the region. India also wants peaceful Afghanistan to be a link between the energy-consuming South Asia and the oil and gas-rich Central Asia. For Delhi, limiting Pakistani influence over Afghanistan is also central.

Contacts with India were strengthened following the fall of the Taliban regime. India supported the Northern Alliance (see Modern History) prior to the 2001 war as a counterbalance to Pakistan’s influence over the Taliban. However, India has not contributed soldiers to the international forces. Afghanistan has received extensive Indian assistance and the two countries have cooperated in trade, counter-terrorism and military education. India has provided financial support to the development of the port of Chabahar in Iran for Indian trade with Afghanistan to go through it rather than via ports in Pakistan.

Following Ghani’s assumption as president in 2014, relations with India cooled, which saw Ghani approach Pakistan. However, other members of the government, such as senior executive officer Abdullah Abdullah and Dostum (vice president until 2017), were close to India. Delhi has reacted negatively to the Ghani government’s attempt to start talks with the Taliban.

Since 2005, Afghanistan has been a member of the South Asian Cooperation Organization South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc).

Tight relationship with Russia

In 2010, almost two decades after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Russians made a comeback. Then Russia entered into an agreement with NATO on Russian assistance in building up the Afghan army and fighting drug smuggling. However, US sanctions against Russia following the 2014 annexation of Crimea put a stop to Russian support for the military.

Russia has also initiated a number of cooperation projects between Afghanistan and the five Central Asian republics, especially in energy and infrastructure. Among other things, a gas pipeline (Tapi) is being built from Turkmenistan to India via Afghanistan and Pakistan. The management is supposed to provide Afghanistan with much needed revenue in the form of transfer fees.

Since the withdrawal of the NATO-led ISA forces in Russia, Russia has worked to play a greater role in the events in Afghanistan. Moscow has since December 2016 invited China and Pakistan to several conferences on how to resolve the Afghan conflict. In 2017, India, Iran and the Afghan government also participated – but not the US.

When the Ghani government took office in 2014, relations with Russia deteriorated, accused of approaching both the Taliban and Ghani’s political opponents, President Karzai.

Relations with China and Iran

China’s interest in Afghanistan was small before President Karzai opened for foreign investment in the country’s energy and commodity resources. In the 2000s and 2010s, China has invested in infrastructure and energy in Afghanistan, including in the extraction of copper and oil. From 2015, China has also invested in transport routes linking Afghanistan to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) infrastructure project in Pakistan, for example a cross-border railway.

China, which has close relations with Pakistan, has pushed to get the Pakistani government to in turn push the Taliban to come to the negotiating table. A stable Afghanistan is important for Chinese investment in energy and infrastructure.

Shi’ite Muslim Iran is a major aid donor, trading partner and investor in Sunni Afghanistan. The US and NATO have accused Iran of supporting resistance groups to hamper Western countries’ efforts in the country, which the Tehran government rejects. Iran and Afghanistan cooperate in the fight against the Sunni extremist group Islamic State (IS).


In the winter of 2002, work began on creating a new Afghan defense force following the fall of the Taliban. In September 2014, it was estimated to have reached the planned size of a total of 352,000 men, including 195,000 in the Army and Air Force and 157,000 in police. By 2018, the armed forces had decreased to 174,300 men (167,000 in the army and 7,300 in the air force) and 148,700 men in the police force. The reasons for the reduction are large losses and many deserts after the foreign troop withdrawal.

A few years after Afghanistan took over responsibility for its own defense, it can be stated that the level of education and capacity of the Afghan security forces is low. There are major problems with desertification. This is particularly bad for the police. According to a study from Brown University in the United States in 2018, around 30,000 Afghan soldiers had been killed in combat since the foreign troop retreat.

Since July 2003, a slow UN-backed effort has been underway to dissolve private militias, which are estimated to have had a total of 100,000 members.

The foreign troops in Afghanistan totaled around 145,000 soldiers (autumn 2010). The NATO-led ISA force then consisted of about 130,000 soldiers from some 40 countries. About 90,000 of these came from the United States, which also had about 15,000 soldiers in the terrorist-fighting United States-led force Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). There were also a few thousand soldiers from other nations. The OEF’s main task was anti-terrorism missions, air support and training of Afghan army soldiers. Sweden contributed about 500 people to Isaf.

Less US force left

From 2012, the foreign troops began to withdraw and at the end of December 2014 NATO formally ended its efforts in the country. Following an agreement with the new Afghan government, the United States retained about 10,000 men in Afghanistan and other countries retained a total of about 3,000 men. It was intended that the remaining Americans would have advisory and educational functions, but the situation in the conflict was considered so serious that they were also given conflicting tasks. The US also retained the opportunity to deploy combat aircraft against Taliban and other insurgency movements. The reason was the doubt that the Afghan forces would be able to resist the pressure from the Taliban. At the end of 2019, the American force (Operation Freedom’s Sentinel) amounted to 8,000 men.

A smaller NATO mission (Operation Resolute Support) was also left to provide training and counseling. At the end of 2018, it amounted to 13,877 soldiers, including 7,000 from the United States. Larger squad contributions also came from Germany, Italy and Georgia. Sweden contributed 50 people.

The conflict in Afghanistan costs the US about $ 45 billion annually. At the end of 2018, US President Donald Trump announced that a larger number of US soldiers might be taken home from Afghanistan. According to an anonymous source within the US State Administration, this would amount to about 7,000 people. NATO announced that its support efforts in the country are not affected by Trump’s decision. In the spring of 2020, the United States had not yet taken home any soldiers.


Army: 167 000 men (2017)

The air Force: 7,300 men (2017)

Military expenditure’s share of GDP: 0.9 percent (2017)

Military spending’s share of the state budget: 3.6 percent (2017)



Two Swedes are killed

The first in a long line of suicide attacks by Taliban occurs in Kabul. Outside of Mazar-i-Sharif, the Swedish Isaf squad is hit by its first losses when two soldiers are killed in an explosive attack.


Parliamentary elections are held

Parliamentary elections without party lists are carried out. The official result will not be clear until November after criticism of cheating and irregularities.


Cooperation agreement with the United States

US and Afghanistan enter into strategic partnership agreement; The United States gets free hands to continue the “war on terror” on Afghan soil. At the same time, data on brutal treatment of prisoners in the US detention center are starting to emerge.