One, Afghan forces are fighting well despite worries that they couldn't endure the casualty rate.
I wonder what the enemy rate is. Afghans may simply tolerate a higher casualty rate. Different militaries have different traditions and a violent warrior culture is way different.
Two, elections have put better leadership into position at the national level.
I'd feel better about this if Afghanistan was a unitary state rather than a legal fiction with a UN seat sitting atop independent-minded regions, ethnic groups, and tribes.
Three, Pakistan realizes that they need Afghanistan stable and that playing with fire by supporting some jihadis can't work.
I'll believe that ... why? I have doubts that this shared view on jihadis will last long enough to matter to Afghanistan.
Four, the economy has made huge progress.
Sure, wealthy Westerners operating there represented a massive infusion of wealth relative to their reality before 2001. Can Afghanistan maintain what we built? Will the draw down of forces and foreigners be done without reducing the money flowing into the territory?
Five, public opinion polling shows confidence in the national government and security issues.
That is good. But people can wrongly believe lots of things in large numbers. That polling could reverse in the face of bad reality.
As the author says, promising signs for victory are not the same as victory:
Afghan security forces must get urgently needed fixed-wing A-29 aircraft to complement the handful of helicopters they already possess, because air power will remain a crucial advantage in prosecuting the counter-insurgency campaign after coalition planes are gone. Thousands of contractors may need to remain in country, training Afghans in how to maintain their equipment and improve their tactics. After 14 years of sacrifice, the U.S. and its partners shouldn’t skimp on the funding needed to keep Afghanistan in the win column.
Yes, don't walk away. That's been my hope since before President Obama inherited the "good" war:
The end result in Afghanistan, if all goes well, will be a nominal national government that controls the capital region and reigns but does not rule local tribes and which actually helps the locals a bit rather than sucking resources from the locals, who in turn do not make trouble for the central government or allow their areas to be used by jihadis to plan attacks on the West. We press for reasonable economic opportunities, with bribes all around (I mean, foreign aid), to keep a fragile peace.
And we stick around this time, unlike after the Soviets left Afghanistan when we ignored the place, for a generation or two to see if we can move Afghanistan into the 19th century (hey, let's not get ahead of ourselves).
Hopefully our military surge recedes by the end of 2011 and we can get down to a single combat brigade plus air power that function as a fire brigade and a hammer for the central government should a local difficulty exceed Afghan military capabilities.
We don't have the combat brigade. But I still have the same hopes for ultimate victory.
UPDATE: The very related drug war there.
UPDATE: Locals needed to battle Taliban in the north:
The Afghan government has enlisted hundreds of militia fighters controlled by local commanders to battle Taliban militants near the northern city of Kunduz, officials said, underlining how the armed forces are struggling to tackle the insurgency alone.
Which is good in regard to willingness of people to resist the Taliban; but a potential long-term problem if these armed militias become a warlord army.
But you can't worry about a potential future problem at the expense of solving an immediate problem.