U.S. President Barack Obama unveiled a revamped war effort for Afghanistan in a push to bring modest security to the country ahead of national elections scheduled for Aug. 20.
Military planners are considering a new way forward based on concerns over mounting civilian casualties and from lessons learned during the counterinsurgency campaign in Iraq.
Stephen Biddle, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, says victory in Afghanistan is achievable, but only if security gains are supported by an effective government.
"We can keep the patient on life support by providing security assistance indefinitely," Biddle says, "but if you don't get an improvement in governance, you'll never be able to take the patient off the ventilator."
The renewed strategy for Afghanistan relies in part on courting moderate elements of the Taliban and other anti-American factions. But Biddle warns that coalition forces may have to forfeit some parts of the country to insurgents while the national government and military grow.
"You're going to have to make the hard choice about where you're going to contest the ground and where you're not," he says.