Unless something really untoward happens, the recent election will be the precursor of a peaceful transfer of power in modern Afghan history, which has had its share of coups and assassinations.
It was a very pleasant and peaceful surprise. After weeks of relentless attacks by the Taliban many feared that Saturday's Afghan election would be a very bloody one. But did the Taliban hold back so as not to delegitimize itself?
What's needed is an inclusive, political settlement -- with all stakeholders included -- that ends the fighting and stops the region from meddling, something we missed the mark on years ago. Until we do that, any Afghan security deal will remain elusive.
Immunity for U.S. troops post-2014 isn't going to happen. It's a political non-starter. No Afghan presidential candidate, queuing for the April 2014 elections, can support it, nor do the Afghan people want immunity for foreign troops.
If I'm right, then Afghan women are leading the way down a path that might be rocky at times, but is leading toward a stronger future.
There is a blurred picture of the Afghan reality. But President Obama's people must have the strength to help him formulate sound policies, and be aware that they have the responsibility to think of possibilities beyond war.
In his second dispatch, "The Vote Comes to Afghanistan's Peaceful Heartland" for Foreign Policy, September 20, Schuster Institute Senior Fellow E. Ben...
Afghans courageous enough to go out and vote on September 18 certainly have my respect, but for U.S. officials and policymakers, there are multiple delegitimizing issues that should be cause for concern.
Afghans respect power, and Karzai has been shown over and over to have none.
If we are to avoid the kind of victory that is a disservice to those who fought for it, we must rein in the excesses of Afghanistan's increasingly undemocratic President.
The Presidential decree does not empower Afghans.
Likewise, in foreign policy. Let's say there are two diagnoses for Afghanistan -- one means it has a chance if we do things right. The other means that there's no hope whatever we do.
If yet another election fails the Afghan people, prospects for establishing a credible, stable government will be severely damaged -- perhaps beyond repair.
By escalating the war to support a corrupt government in a land that has expelled every other invading power, Obama has made sure that its inevitable failure will be that much more spectacular.
We don't have a viable partner in Afghanistan and we don't have the legitimacy that is essential to rebuilding the country. The Afghans don't view us as their saviors. They view us as the latest intruder in their valley.
The cost of war in in dollars alone requires a choice not only to stop sending troops but also to withdraw all U.S. military forces and invest in civilian-led development of Afghanistan's devastated communities.