"The Obama Administration and several of its partner countries appear to be seeking to wind down U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan more rapidly than was previously envisioned. Stated U.S. policy remains 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 from July 2011 until the end of 2014. During 2009 and 2010, 51,000 U.S. forces were added, bringing U.S. troop numbers to a high of about 99,000, with partners providing about 42,000. On June 22, 2011, President Obama announced that the policy had accomplished most major U.S. goals and that a drawdown of 33,000 U.S. troops would take place by September 2012--the first 10,000 were withdrawn by the end of 2011 and the remainder of that number will leave by September 2012. The transition to Afghan leadership began, as planned, in July 2011 in four cities and three full provinces; a second and larger tranche of areas to be transitioned was announced on November 27, 2011. On February 1, 2012, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta indicated that U.S. military involvement would transition from combat to a training and advisory mission by mid-2013, although without specifying a further drawdown schedule through the end of 2014. The Administration view is that security gains achieved by the surge could be at risk from weak Afghan governance and insurgent safe haven in Pakistan, and that Afghanistan will still need direct security assistance after 2014. Afghan governance is perceived as particularly weak and corrupt, despite the holding of regular elections since 2004 and the establishment of several overlapping anti-corruption institutions. In order to frame the long-term security relationship, U.S. and Afghan officials are negotiating a 'strategic partnership,' although differences over U.S. latitude to conduct operations have held up completion of that pact to date."
CRS Report for Congress, RL30588