"The United States and its partner countries are reducing military involvement in Afghanistan in preparation to end the current international security mission by the end of 2014. As agreed by President Obama and Afghan President Karzai, and announced January 11, 2013, Afghan forces will assume the security lead nationwide during the spring of 2013 and U.S. forces will move to a support role. The number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, which peaked at about 100,000 in June 2011, was reduced to a 'pre-surge' level of about 66,000 as of September 20, 2012. An additional 34,000 will leave by February 2014, but the bulk of that drawdown will take place in late 2013- early 2014. The size of the international force that will remain in Afghanistan after 2014 is to be announced later in May or in June 2013, with options narrowing to 8,000 -- 12,000, of which the majority would be U.S. forces. The primary mission will be to train the Afghanistan National Security Forces (ANSF), but some international forces will engage in counter-terrorism missions as well. The U.S. troops that remain after 2014 would do so under a U.S.-Afghanistan security agreement that is under negotiation. Still, fearing instability after 2014, some key ethnic and political faction leaders are preparing to revive their militia forces should the international drawdown lead to a major Taliban push to retake power. The Administration remains concerned that Afghan stability after 2014 is at risk from weak and corrupt Afghan governance and insurgent safe havens in Pakistan. Among efforts to promote effective and transparent Afghan governance, U.S. officials are pushing for substantial election reform to ensure that the next presidential election, scheduled for April 5, 2014, will be devoid of the fraud that plagued Afghanistan's elections in 2009 and 2010. An unexpected potential benefit to stability could come from a negotiated settlement between the Afghan government and the Taliban and other insurgent groups. Negotiations have proceeded sporadically since early 2010, but informal discussions have continued and even evolved into exchanges of specific proposals. Afghanistan's minorities and women's groups fear that a settlement might produce compromises with the Taliban that erode human rights and ethnic power-sharing."
CRS Report for Congress, RL30588