David Ignatius has a good account of the issues at stake as Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai arrives in Washington this week. I’d probably put a bit more emphasis on the reconciliation issue–to my mind, the big question this week is whether the President will give Karzai approval to begin formal talks with the Taliban. The U.S. military is reluctant to approve such talks until it can further degrade the Taliban’s military position. That approach may be a chimera, given the Karzai government’s inability to provide anything resembling governance in Pashtun areas, especially in Kandahar and Helmand provinces. We can certainly clear Taliban-held areas like Marja–although the new, humane McChrystal rules of engagement make offensive operations more difficult–but holding and building, and developing a reasonable Afghan Army and police force, is a different story (as we’re seeing in Marja).
One way or another, this summer–especially the campaign to clear Kandahar Province–is going to tell us a great deal about the plausibility of our Afghan war effort.