"Stated U.S. policy is to ensure that Afghanistan will not again become a base for terrorist attacks against the United States. Following three policy reviews on Afghanistan, the latest in December 2010, the Obama Administration asserts that it is pursuing a well-resourced and integrated military-civilian strategy intended to pave the way for a gradual transition to Afghan leadership beginning in July 2011 and to be completed by the end of 2014. Amid widespread doubts that Afghan governance and security institutions will be strong enough to protect themselves by that time, U.S. officials say that the U.S. intent is for a long term relationship with Afghanistan that might include U.S. military involvement long after 2014. A total of 51,000 additional U.S. forces were authorized by the two reviews, which has brought U.S. troop numbers to their current level of about 100,000, with partner forces adding about 41,000. In March 2011 testimony, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus, stated that insurgent momentum has been blunted and even reversed in some key areas but he reiterated Administration comments that gains remain 'fragile and reversible.' U.N. assessments and some outside experts are more pessimistic than U.S. official views, asserting that the insurgents have expanded their presence in northern Afghanistan and will reassert themselves as international forces draw down. Still, a transition is set to begin in late June 2011 beginning with seven areas announced by President Hamid Karzai, and accompanied by a drawdown of U.S. forces that is expected to be small, and progress gradually. In an attempt to facilitate a more rapid transition, the top U.S. and NATO commander, General Petraeus has instituted some local security programs and has stepped up the use of air strikes and special forces operations to compel Taliban commanders to consider a negotiated settlement. However, there are major concerns among Afghanistan's minorities and among its women that reconciliation, if it were to occur, might produce compromises that erode the freedoms enjoyed since 2001."
CRS Report for Congress, RL30588