It’s no secret that the diminishing coalition of Western governments still involved in the 11-year war in Afghanistan are desperate to get out. Some, like the French, have already wound down their military operations ahead of schedule. Washington preaches staying the course through gritted teeth until the end of 2014, at which point Afghan government forces will ostensibly have the numbers, the training, the equipment and the will to take over the fight against the Taliban. That narrative has been challenged by events in 2012, not least the steady toll of regular “green-on-blue” killings—when supposedly friendly Afghan personnel attack their NATO mentors. More than 60 coalition soldiers have died in such attacks this year alone.
Meanwhile, with much of the emphasis in the U.S. centered on military counterinsurgency, it’s unclear how much progress has been or can be made to find political accord with the Taliban and, perhaps, its longtime patron, Pakistan. The Obama Administration has stepped up drone strikes on suspected militant hideouts along the Afghan-Pakistan border, a tactic that has drawn growing resentment in Pakistan. While Washington insists 2014 is a hard deadline for withdrawal, there’s little optimism that NATO forces will leave behind a stable Afghanistan. No surprise, then, that the Administration is currently in negotiations with Kabul over keeping a residual force in Afghanistan well after the departure date.