Kabul – Will America's decade-plus effort to bring stability and security to Afghanistan succeed? Crisscrossing the country at the invitation of U.S. commanders, as I have been doing regularly since 2008, I saw in early May cause for both pessimism and optimism as Afghanistan hurtles toward a turning point: NATO's self-imposed December 2014 deadline for all "combat" troops (though not necessarily military advisers and special-operations forces) to leave the country.
The most important reason to think that Afghanistan may turn out just fine is the progress being made by the Afghan National Security Forces, now 352,000 strong. The formal forces are augmented by 20,000 Afghan Local Police, an auxiliary, village-based security force that is particularly feared by the Taliban, who are targeting its leaders for assassination. The Afghan security forces, and in particular the army, are now in the lead in 80 percent of all security operations, and in June they will take control of the entire country. Already far more Afghan than coalition troops are being killed and wounded — a reversal of the prevailing trend of the past decade.