For United States and NATO forces in Afghanistan, the focus is on bringing about the war's "responsible end." Inside the country, however, the war is very much on and the question of how Afghan forces will fare once the foreigners leave remains. Now, some questions about future security look closer to being answered.
Sources familiar with talks on a bilateral security deal between Washington and Kabul that would formalize the post-2014 relationship say a deal is likely to come by the U.S.'s desired October deadline. Negotiators have reached agreement on one single text, with the remaining sticking points written in bracketed language indicating areas still subject to discussion and agreement. Now it is up to policymakers on both the Afghan and American sides to decide what they can live with.
Among the most contentious issues: the definition of the "enemy." The U.S. has focused on al Qaeda rather than on pursuing Taliban safe havens, and America's continuing financial support for the Afghan National Security Forces. There is also, of course, the issue of U.S. legal jurisdiction over American military forces operating in Afghanistan, a point on which the Obama administration has said there is no negotiating.