Skip to main content

Afghanistan: Changes to Updated U.S. Civil-Military Strategic Framework Reflect Evolving U.S. Role

GAO-14-438R Published: Apr 01, 2014. Publicly Released: Apr 01, 2014.
Jump To:
Skip to Highlights


What GAO Found

Although the October 2012 and the August 2013 versions of the U.S. Civil-Military Strategic Framework for Afghanistan have similarities, the two versions differ in several aspects. These differences reflect, among other things, the U.S. government's heightened emphasis on the transition, through the end of 2014, of security responsibility for Afghanistan to Afghan security institutions and the Afghan National Security Forces as well as the transition in U.S. policy toward a more traditional diplomatic and development model. Both versions of the framework address four categories of U.S. efforts in support of U.S. national goals in Afghanistan, with security, the first category, as the foundation for the other three categories, or "pillars"--governance, rule of law, and socioeconomic development. Both versions also address the same crosscutting issues. Differences between the two versions include the following:

  • In the August 2013 version, the framework's function and statement of U.S. national goals have been modified to reflect changes in U.S. civilian and military efforts during and after the transition. 
  • The August 2013 version contains new information about the U.S.-Afghan partnership during the transition. 
  • The August 2013 version includes new, transition-focused subsections for each of the three strategic pillars--governance, rule of law, and socioeconomic development--assessing the impact of reduced U.S. resources and presence on U.S. objectives and priorities. 
  • The August 2013 version provides fewer details about the future U.S. government footprint in Afghanistan, reflecting uncertainty affecting the U.S. post-2014 strategy. 
  • The August 2013 version replaces a section about measuring progress with a new section about civil-military cooperation. 
  • The August 2013 framework excludes a list of strategic risks and of factors that could mitigate those risks.

Why GAO Did This Study

Section 1220 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (NDAA) mandates GAO to report on any substantial updates to the campaign plan for Afghanistan, which the U.S. Civil-Military Strategic Framework for Afghanistan has replaced. To satisfy the mandate, this report broadly compares the August 2013 version of the framework with the October 2012 version, summarizing the differences between them.

For more information, contact Michael J. Courts at (202) 512-8980 or

Full Report

Office of Public Affairs


Civilian employeesForeign governmentsForeign military assistanceInternational relationsMilitary forcesMilitary personnelNational defense operationsPrioritizingRisk factorsRisk managementStrategic forcesStrategic planning