Transitions MIKHAIL GALUSTOV
America’s military presence in Afghanistan is slowly but steadily decreasing. The surge is officially over. The 33,000 extra troops that President Obama dispatched to Afghanistan in early 2010 are no more. Despite significant territorial gains in southern Afghanistan, however, the decisive turn-around that the surge was supposed to bring about has not happened. The Taliban remain entrenched throughout much of the country — including some areas very close to Kabul — and Al Qaeda and the Haqqani Network persevere in the East. The overall level of violence today is significantly higher than it was before the surge. Nor has American military pressure forced the Taliban to the negotiating table for peace talks. As U.S. bases are shuttered or handed over to the Afghan Army and Police, it seems evident that the insurgency will outlast us in the end. Despite ubiquitous prognostications, nobody knows how events will unfold after we leave. Perhaps the country will manage to sustain some semblance of the status quo. Perhaps it will descend into yet another bloody civil war. And perhaps the country’s fate lies somewhere in between these two scenarios. One thing is certain: most Afghans are apprehensive about the future, and very few are optimistic. “Transitions” captures this apprehension in various places and various people throughout the country.