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"The Wall Street Journal" quoted U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn as saying he saw substantial progress in the wake of a large-scale offensive against the Taliban in their southern strongholds of Helmand and Kandahar

Such assertions may be true in terms of tactical advantages over the United States' adversaries. But lightly armed, highly mobile Taliban units can easily return to the villages around Kandahar from where they're being routed once the Western soldiers depart.

The main problem in Afghanistan isn't in the villages into which U.S. Marines are advancing. It's the increasing distance between the U.S. government and Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai and the larger South and Central Asian region where regional powers are already jockeying for the political realignment that will follow the U.S. withdrawal.

Without a strong Afghan ally who has popular credibility and legitimacy, U.S. counterterrorism and counterinsurgency strategies are unlikely to work. During a recent visit to Kabul, most Afghans I met appeared pessimistic about the U.S. role in their country. It was a marked contrast to the sentiment a few years ago, when almost everyone believed Washington had long-term plans to remain in Afghanistan and anchor a regional transformation. Now the mood is of great skepticism over U.S. plans in the belief that Washington is preparing to leave soon.

-- Abubakar Siddique

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