"Indeed, we recognize that we and our Afghan partners cannot just kill or capture our way out of the insurgency in Afghanistan," Petraeus said in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, noting 700 former Taliban already have been reintegrated and 2,000 others are in various stages of the process.
Petraeus, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said actions taken in coming months are critical to helping Afghans take control of their own security, government and economy.
"We'll get one shot at transition and we need to get it right," he said, adding the focus needs to be on 2014 when Afghanistan takes full responsibility. He also recommended not reducing aid from the U.S. Agency for International Development, warning reductions could lead to insurgents regaining a foothold.
Petraeus said the military coalition is getting better at keeping civilians out of harm's way -- the United Nations found civilian casualties down 20 percent in 2010 -- and military personnel have been directed to keep infrastructure and property damage to a minimum.
"Counterinsurgents cannot succeed if they harm the people they are striving to protect," he said.