US President Barack Obama held a top-level meeting on Afghanistan and Pakistan on Tuesday, ahead of the public release on Thursday of the administrations latest review of its policy in the two countries. Tuesdays sombre one-hour 45-minute meeting, in the White House Situation Room came two days before Obama makes public his review into the year-old surge plan designed to crush Al-Qaeda and break the Talibans momentum. The review is expected to reaffirm the US commitment to set 2014 as the date for handing over control of operations against the Taliban to local forces. It highlights how early expectations that Holbrooke might play a decisive role towards a diplomatic settlement were misplaced, since the Obama administration has committed itself instead to several more years of ramped-up military effort. The administration is now emphasising the 2014 handover more than the previously announced date of July 2011, the scheduled beginning of the drawdown process. The president feels confident that we are on track on where we should be and that we can certainly meet our commitments to begin a conditions-based drawdown of our forces next July, Robert Gibbs, White House spokesman, said. We have progress and we have challenges, Gibbs said Monday, assessing Obamas decision to surge 30,000 troops into a conflict that at nine years is now Americas longest hot war abroad. We have many challenges in both security and governance. Limited progress in Afghanistan has been dearly won more foreign troops died in 2010 than in any year of the nine-year conflict and Washington has waged fierce and counter-productive public spats with Kabul and Islamabad. Obama signalled the likely outcome of his policy review during a visit to Afghanistan this month, telling troops they were achieving their objectives and would succeed. We said we were going to break the Talibans momentum. Thats what youre doing, Obama said, though admitted there would be difficult days ahead in a war that has claimed nearly 700 foreign troops this year. Defence Secretary Robert Gates says that the US strategy has exceeded his expectations with the US military claiming success in wiping out Taliban mid-level commanders and in operations its eastern and southern bastions.