Fred Kaplan reads a recent Pentagon report on the situation:

Here's how the report summarizes the situation in straight prose: "Some individual islands of security exist in the sea of instability or insecurity." The authors muster only two islands: the town of Mazur-i-Sharif in the north and "small contiguous areas" near the Ring Road in the south. The level of security, they add, is "significantly related to the presence of well-led and non-corrupt" units of Afghan soldiers or police.

The problem is that "well-led and non-corrupt" Afghan security forces are, as yet, rare commodities. The Afghan army and national police force are making "slow progress" toward its manpower targets because of "high attrition and low retention." Between 60 percent and 70 percent of uniformed police are "hired and deployed with no formal training." By this August, NATO troops will be mentoring Afghan police in 45 of the 80 most important districts. Yet the report notes that even well-trained police units "have regressed" after a mentoring team is reassigned elsewhere.

Joe Klein thinks we are losing. The Economist is hosting a debate on the war this week with John Nagl arguing that the war is winnable and Peter Galbraith arguing it isn't. Steinglass prods the debaters to examine the war's cost.

(Image: David Furst/Getty)

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to