Afghans' surprisingly enthusiastic participation in their presidential campaign and Saturday's election should jolt Afghans and foreigners alike out of their pessimism about the country's future.
Just because the odds are against a successful outcome in Afghanistan does not mean the United States should wash its hands of it now.
The West still has a chance in Afghanistan -- if it toils for an indigenous solution to the conflict and prevent Pakistan from spoiling everything.
There is a potential catastrophe looming when foreign troops leave Afghanistan, as the central government could well sacrifice women and girls in future negotiations with the Taliban.
Karzai has retreated from many ideological and political positions in the face of recalcitrant events and shifting context. The most irreconcilable are his opinions about the Taliban as well as his views on the role of the U.S. in Afghanistan.
Washington and Kabul have, for endless months, been performing a strange pas de deux over the issue of American withdrawal. The less Karzai complied, the more Obama administration and Pentagon officials betrayed an overwhelming need to stay.
In the annals of U.S. foreign policy, Afghanistan stands as a typical case where a flawed military strategy has sidelined viable political solutions. Washington incentivized war through perks and privileges, and four-star promotions and undermined peace efforts. The U.S. has had a war strategy, but no political strategy or a clear exit strategy.
If one wants to see the real face of America's declining power abroad, look no further than Karzai's Afghanistan or Maliki's Iraq.
Does America even have a national security strategy? I ask because the Pentagon is getting ready to promulgate the latest version of same in the forthcoming Quadrennial Defense Review. And the Obama Administration has given off some big conflicting messages over the past year.
All parties in this conflict including the U.S., Afghan, and Pakistani governments and their battlefield adversaries are complicit in undermining peace.
Karzai's public jousting with Washington over the accord may have raised his stature with the Afghan public, disproving the hoary Taliban claim he is just a U.S. puppet. It has certainly focused Afghans on the real dangers of going it alone.
Karzai is reportedly making serious overtures to the Taliban, no doubt offering them a power-sharing agreement. Whether he will be successful in achieving this in the waning days of his presidency remains an open question.
No one can fail to be awed by, and to appreciate, the sergeant's courage and sacrifice. But what was he sacrificing for?