International leaders, foreign ministers and figureheads gathered at Tuesday's Kabul conference to assess the fate of Afghanistan and draft a tentative arrangement moving forward. With delegates on hand, President Hamid Karzai signalled that he is "committed" to having the capacity "to provide for our own security" by 2014. While the pledge to a firm deadline was lauded, this promise comes at a time when many western journalists have begun to advocate for a swift withdrawal from the nation. Here's how the new time-table changed the debate:

  • Success Is Probably Not Possible  opines The Economist's "Asia View" columnist. While it seems as if "many of the delegates are putting their hopes in a grand political deal with insurgents...remarkably little was said about efforts to encourage insurgent leaders to "reconcile" with the government." That sentiment doesn't bode well for Karzai's newly established time line, nor for their next international conference in Lisbon this November.
  • Reconciliation Is No Blank Check  writes Anders Fogh Rasmussen (the Secretary General of NATO) in a New York Times op-ed contribution. He explains, "Starting the transition does not mean that the struggle for Afghanistan’s future as a stable country in a volatile region will be over. Afghanistan will need the continued support of the international community, including NATO. It is important that we send a clear message of long-term commitment. The Afghan population needs to know that we will continue to stand by them as they chart their own course into the future."
  • It's Not Worth It  declares Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, in a heavily-covered Newsweek cover story. He argues: "The time has come to scale back U.S. objectives and sharply reduce U.S. involvement on the ground. Afghanistan is claiming too many American lives, requiring too much attention, and absorbing too many resources. The sooner we accept that Afghanistan is less a problem to be fixed than a situation to be managed, the better."
  • We Need Unity  urges Senator Edward Kaufman in an op-ed contribution to The Hill. The Democrat notes: "Unfortunately, there are many factors in Afghanistan — starting with the government in Kabul — which fall outside the realm of U.S. control. President Hamid Karzai must do more to eliminate widespread corruption and institute rule of law that is transparent and fair...This ongoing trend of tolerating corrupt and unlawful behavior has made attempts to gain Afghan popular support difficult, if not impossible."