U.S. policy toward Afghanistan involves spending scores of billions of dollars and suffering several hundred allied deaths annually largely to prevent the Afghan Taliban from controlling the Afghan Pashtun homeland.
But the United States and its allies will not defeat the Taliban militarily. President Hamid Karzai's corrupt government will not significantly improve. The Afghan National Army cannot take over combat missions from ISAF in southern and eastern Afghanistan in any realistic time frame. And on December 15, the New York Times assessed that "two new classified intelligence reports offer a more negative assessment and say there is a limited chance of success unless Pakistan hunts down insurgents operating from havens on its Afghan border". That won't happen.
With these individual elements of U.S. Afghanistan policy in serious trouble, optimism about the current strategy's ability to meet its objectives reminds one of the White Queen's comment in Through the Looking Glass: "Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
De facto partition offers the Obama administration the best available alternative to strategic defeat. The administration should stop setting deadlines for withdrawal and instead commit the United States to a long-term combat role in Afghanistan of 35,000-50,000 troops for the next 7-10 years.