Even the generals concede they can't win a military victory against the Taliban with just 18 months left until US combat forces begin to withdraw. Their best hope is to persuade low-ranking fighters to switch sides and then to negotiate with Taliban leaders who renounce violence and agree to share power. But that won't happen, they say, unless the insurgency can be weakened first, and that won't be easy. They've have become so strong that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has warned the Security Council that a "deteriorating” situation could become "irreversible.” We talk with NATO's second-ranking commander and others about military realities, the Karzai government, the Taliban and al Qaeda. What about Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the influence of this year's mid-term elections in the US?
Nick Parker, Deputy Commander, International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan
Sarah Chayes, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (@CarnegieEndow)
Ahmed Rashid, Pakistani journalist
Vanda Felbab-Brown, Brookings Institution (@VFelbabBrown)