WASHINGTON -- When President Obama announced a new strategy for Afghanistan in December, he argued that by setting a deadline of next summer to begin drawing down troops he would create a sense of urgency for the Afghan government to take the lead in the fight, while acknowledging the limits of America's patience with the longest war in its history.
But over the past two weeks -- on Capitol Hill, in Kabul and even in conversations with foreign leaders -- Mr. Obama has been reminded how the goal has become what one senior American military commander called a "double-edged sword," one that hangs over the White House as surely as it hangs over President Hamid Karzai.
The absence of serious progress this year has sown new doubts, here and abroad, that Mr. Obama will be able to reach even the scaled-down goals he set for America's mission in the time he laid out in his speech at West Point seven months ago. The result is that the fierce debate over whether the war is worth the cost -- a debate that Mr. Obama did not want to join until the Taliban suffered some losses -- is unwinding one summer earlier than he had hoped.
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