Obama faces the tricky task of drawing down the American military presence in Afghanistan by the end of 2014, as agreed among NATO partners, while reassuring a problematic Pakistan that the US is not abandoning the region.
The US is keen to see Pakistan relinquish its longtime strategy of harboring and even supporting the Taliban as a means of maintaining a measure of influence in Afghanistan. But Pakistan appears to want to wait to see if arch-rival India increased its influence in Afghanistan as the American role wanes, harboring the militants as a hedge.
Among the questions hanging over US-Afghanistan relations: Will Afghan troops be ready to assume responsibility for the country’s security post-2014? Will the US-Taliban negotiations that never really started ever get off the ground and produce any results? And what will happen to the gains that many Afghans – in particular women and girls – have made in education, health, and stature over the long American presence?