What is the likelihood that the Taliban will return to power in Afghanistan within the next few years?
45% Unlikely

“They can disrupt Afghan life but do not have the capacity or support to retake the Afghan government.”

“If we devote the resources it deserves.”

“Unlikely, but it's likelier than I thought six months or a year ago, given the mounting unattended problems in Afghanistan.”

“Many rural Pathans support [the Taliban] but almost  all Tadjiks  and Uzbeks oppose them; Hazara hate them. Also, [the] Taliban view the Shi'a as heretics and Iran can keep them out of Herat.”

“The Taliban is likely to remain a force in the politics of Afghanistan for the foreseeable future, perhaps even establishing effective control over some parts of the country. But the government in Kabul is poised to remain in power, backed by NATO and US forces.”

“The international community is heavily involved in Afghanistan's success. Continued support to the Afghan Government should allow them to continue to mature. The most important factor is that most Afghans don't want the Taliban back. As long as NATO is responsible for security and Pakistan helps with the border areas I see it unlikely the Taliban will ever be more than a nuisance.”

“But if things don't improve this year, it could definitely fall off the table. [Afghan President Hamid] Karzai is little more than the mayor of Kabul”

“Memories of Taliban rule and its atrocities are still fresh in the minds of too many Afghans to expect them to rally behind its cause anytime soon. However, a complete collapse of the UN/NATO effort to stabilize Afghanistan could leave the country in such chaos that it wouldn’t be completely unthinkable for the Taliban to offer stability and security as a means to return to power.”

27% Somewhat likely

“If the West were to fail in Afghanistan (after having failed in Iraq), it would in this long war be the modern day equivalent of losing the Korean War in the early 1950s.  It would be a strategic setback with far-ranging ramifications. It would further demoralize and splinter the West and encouraging our adversaries around the world.  It would be a disaster.”

“"We face the eternal dilemma of nation-building in Afghanistan. We can only succeed if we provide security and economic development at the same time, to give Afghans a stake in the new order. But it is all too easy for small groups operating with hit-and-run strikes to destroy the basic security necessary for development efforts to succeed, whether it's road-building or foreign investment. Every time we shift our attention elsewhere, we lose vital ground."

“Even more likely is that the Taliban will gain effective control (that is, able to deny the writ of the central government) in a number of localities in the south and east of Afghanistan.”

“The alienation between Karzai and the Pashto majority is the most critical factor. The Taliban is riding back to power on the alienation of the Pashtuns. We risk collapse if we let the political alienation get out of hand.”

18% More and more likely

“In fact, the Taliban never lost power in parts of Afghanistan and is more likely than not going to be able to extend that power in the next few years.”

“But with the caveat that the chance of gaining control of the country is still low. Rather, they have a better and better chance of dominating parts of the country.”

“The real issue is the inability of Afghanistan to have any viable economy. When the international community gets "donor fatigue" it will fall back into the black hole of yesteryear.”

9% Nonexistent

“Washington has too much at stake to allow the Taliban to return to power. It will see to it that the Afghan government retains control of Kabul and other major cities. The Taliban will increase in power, though, and exercise de facto control of large swaths of rural areas, especially in the southern and eastern portions of the country. To some extent that process is already underway.”

“This would be seen universally as accepting defeat in the war against Islamist terror.”

“That's too ghastly to happen, and even this Administration couldn't prove that incompetent on national security.”

Will the nearly 7,000 additional U.S. troops on their way to Afghanistan meaningfully affect the security and stability of the country?
65% Yes

“[It] will help but 7,000 is not enough.”

“But for success there must also be a major increase in efforts at governance and (re)construction. Principal responsibility for leadership and organization, on behalf of the Karzai government and the United Nations, should be assumed by the European Union, with a major political figure in charge and a substantial increase in funding.”

“US Forces not only provide for security but are heavily engaged in training both the Afghan Army and police. Additional trainers and combat troops will help protect the citizens from the Taliban and give the Kabul government a chance to grow and mature.”

“A qualified yes. The failure in Afghanistan is political, not military. Failing to put in place an effective program for economic construction and drug control will undercut any military

campaign in the long run.”

“Yes, although it is not sufficient in numbers. NATO forces will need to remain for decades. Sustained economic development assistance is equally important.”

“Yes, if we also add civilian resources.”

“Yes. But more NATO and US troops will be needed to defeat decisively the Taliban and carry out counter-terrorism missions.”

“More troops will enable U.S. forces to provide more security in Kabul and elsewhere. But we are still wildly short of the kind of troop and political commitment needed to make the current government work. In that respect, Afghanistan is another victim of the Bush

administration's decision to start a war of choice in Iraq.”

“Every bit helps, especially with US air power and, unlike (most) NATO allies, the will actually to fight the fight....”

“The fundamental strategy is right; perseverance is the requisite requirement now.”

35% No

“It will help if concentrated in the south but will not be enough. Troop concentrations in Afghanistan will still be less than 2 per 1,000 people. In Bosnia and Kosovo the levels were 19 or 20 per 1,000. In Iraq the level is less than 8 per 1,000 even after the surge.”

“Seven thousand doesn't begin to be enough, and it's hard to know what enough is when the border with Pakistan gives the insurgents safe haven.”

“No. They might well have done so two years ago.”

“Far more are needed to make a difference.”

“No, it is a trivial number.”

“No, unless there is also a commitment in economic assistance.”

“Not unless we develop a genuine counterinsurgency plan similar to the ink spot approach the British successfully used in Malaya, where they used their military power to provide security for a reason-to quickly improve the social and economic position of the people they

had 'liberated', making them stakeholders in the process.”

“The problem in Afghanistan, like Iraq, is much more political than military. Seven thousand additional troops solve neither of these questions -- too few for a military advance, almost irrelevant for securing political change.”

“Not of the country, at best Kabul and its immediate areas.”

65% None of the above:

“More troops along aren’t going to bring stability or security to the country. What Afghanistan needs is an integrated nation-building effort consisting of more troops to bring security, more money to rebuild basic infrastructure, and more political support to get Pakistan to clean up the border area which is now the main source of threat to Afghanistan’s future.”

PARTICIPANTS (44): Kenneth Adelman, Graham Allison, Ronald Asmus, Samuel Berger, Daniel Blumenthal, Stephen Bosworth, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Daniel Byman, Warren Christopher, Wesley Clark, Richard Clarke, William Cohen, Ivo Daalder, Lawrence Eagleburger, Douglas Feith, Jay Garner, Leslie Gelb, Marc Grossman, John Hamre, Gary Hart, Bruce Hoffman, John Hulsman, Robert Hunter, Tony Judt, Robert Kagan, David Kay, Andrew Krepinevich, Charles Kupchan, John Lehman, James Lindsay, Edward Luttwak, Jessica Mathews, John McLaughlin, Richard Myers, William Nash, Joseph Nye, Carlos Pascual, Thomas Pickering, Kenneth Pollack, Joseph Ralston, Susan Rice, Wendy Sherman, Ann-Marie Slaughter, Anthony Zinni.

Not all participants answered all questions.