"Stated U.S. policy is to ensure that Afghanistan will not again become a base for terrorist attacks against the United States. Following policy reviews in 2009, the Obama Administration asserted that it was pursuing a well-resourced and integrated military-civilian strategy intended to pave the way for a gradual transition to Afghan leadership that will begin in July 2011 and be completed by the end of 2014. [...] The death of Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden in a U.S. raid on May 1, 2011, has caused some to argue that overarching U.S. goals will not be jeopardized by the drawdown. However, Al Qaeda has had a minimal presence on the Afghanistan battlefield itself since 2001, and the official U.S. military view is that security gains achieved against mostly Taliban and affiliated Afghan insurgent groups in 2010 remain 'fragile and reversible.' Many strategists, using lessons learned from other U.S.-led campaigns, doubt that Afghanistan can be rendered permanently stable unless Afghan militants are denied safe haven in Pakistan. Still, some believe a negotiated settlement to the Afghanistan conflict has become more likely in the aftermath of bin Laden's death, and some preliminary talks with Taliban figures, led by the State Department, have begun. There are major concerns among Afghanistan's minorities and among its women that reconciliation might produce compromises that erode the freedoms enjoyed since 2001. [...] Much of the development to date has been accomplished with foreign, particularly U.S., help, although the west appears disinclined to continue aiding Afghanistan at existing levels. Through the end of FY2010, the United States has provided over $51.5 billion in assistance to Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban, of which about $26 billion has been to equip and train Afghan forces. During FY2001-FY2011, the Afghan intervention has cost about $443 billion, including all costs. For FY2012, about $18 billion in aid (including train and equip) is requested, in addition to about $100 billion for U.S. military operations there."
CRS Report for Congress, RL30588