Steve Coll asks:

[T]he question requires a definition of failure. As I’ve argued, in my view, a purpose of American policy in Afghanistan ought to be to prevent a second coercive Taliban revolution in that country, not only because it would bring misery to Afghans (and, not incidentally, Afghan women) but because it would jeopardize American interests, such as our security against Al Qaeda’s ambitions and our (understandable) desire to see nuclear-armed Pakistan free itself from the threat of revolutionary Islamist insurgents.

So, then, a definition of failure would be a redux of Taliban revolution in Afghanistana revolution that took control of traditional Taliban strongholds such as Kandahar and Khost, and that perhaps succeeded in Kabul as well. Such an outcome is conceivable if the Obama Administration does not discover the will and intelligence to craft a successful political-military strategy to prevent the Afghan Taliban from achieving its announced goals, which essentially involve the restoration of the Afghan state they presided over during the nineteen-nineties, which was formally known as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

(Photo: David Furst/AFP/Getty.)