In an interview with the New York Times, Gen. John R. Allen suggested that American troops may remain in Afghanistan beyond 2014, despite a previous pledge from President Obama that the bulk of troops would be withdrawn before then. The general’s remarks were the first official statement that the United States military intends to maintain a presence in Afghanistan for years.

The general expects that NATO military advisors will take over the current mission in Afghanistan to train Afghan troops starting in 2012. Still more would arrive in 2013, as the Afghan security forces are asked to do more. Gradually the security of the country will be the responsibility of the Afghan military. He emphasized the need for long-term support military and civilian commitment to the Afghan government to prevent what is currently happening in Iraq and happened in Vietnam.

Fighting insurgents in a foreign land requires the trust and support of the native population. The general referred to radio intercepts of the Taliban in Pakistan complaining about losing popular support in Afghanistan. Southern Afghanistan was once their stronghold, and now they are losing it. Once the Taliban lose the support of the Afghan tribes, they will lose the war. The only thing the insurgents can count on is their safe-haven in Pakistan. Their ally, al-Qaeda, probably left them for Libya.

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The Taliban still have some support inside Afghanistan, suggesting that the Karzai government still has work to do to garner the support of the tribes and the people in his own country. Until the Afghanistan government or security gets the popular support of the people, the Taliban will not be defeated.

The U.S. relationship with Pakistan is a mess, and any future military relationship will be tenuous at best. Allen says he is focused on repairing the damage to the relationship between the United States and Pakistan caused by airstrikes on Pakistani border posts that closed the border to NATO supply trucks. Since the killing of bin Laden inside a Pakistani safe house there has been an element of mistrust of the militaries along the Afghan-Pakistan border.

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