"The Obama Administration and several of its partner countries appear to be seeking to reduce U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan more rapidly than was previously envisioned, but without jeopardizing existing gains. 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 from July 2011 until the end of 2014. […] The transition to Afghan leadership began, as planned, in July 2011, and Afghan forces are now in the lead in areas that include over 50% of all Afghans. 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, a timeframe affirmed by President Obama in late March. The Administration view is that, no matter the U.S. and allied drawdown schedule, security gains 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 still hold up completion of that pact."
CRS Report for Congress, RL30588