A seat at the table: leaving the burial of an Afghan negotiator, Kabul, September 2011.
Omar Sobhani / Courtesy Reuters

International forces in Afghanistan are preparing to hand over responsibility for security to Afghan soldiers and police by the end of 2014. U.S. President Barack Obama has argued that battlefield successes since 2009 have enabled this transition and that with it, “this long war will come to a responsible end.” But the war will not end in 2014. The U.S. role may end, in whole or in part, but the war will continue—and its ultimate outcome is very much in doubt.

Should current trends continue, U.S. combat troops are likely to leave behind a grinding stalemate between the Afghan

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