NATO is six months into an 18-month counterinsurgency plan aimed at turning the tide of the nearly 9-year war in Afghanistan.
In the coming months, the focus of both ground operations and the rebuilding mission will be on the southern province of Kandahar - the spiritual home of the Taliban. Success here is perhaps one of the last chances to keep support for the war alive among Afghans.
"Failure in Afghanistan is not an option," says Haroun Mir, an Afghan analyst and parliamentary candidate. "Certainly the United States can abandon Afghanistan. But the problem is, al Qaeda and the Taliban will not abandon their fight against the United States."
The Taliban have become a viable alternative for many Afghans frustrated with their government and an international presence that has yet to deliver on all of the promises of security and prosperity.
Many fear that in the end the international community will grow tired of the conflict and simply pack up and leave. "This is the biggest fear among Afghan people: that once again Afghanistan will be abandoned," says Mir. "And this is the reason the Taliban have been able to expand their territory in Afghanistan. "
What do some Afghans think about the status of the war, almost nine years later, and what the future holds?
Soaiba Halif, female high school student
My only wish is to have peace and stability in our country. Humans should live in peace but our lives are like a bird living in a cage. My concern is the war in this country.
Some young guys believe that the United States is playing the same policy as the Soviets played in Afghanistan. And that they are actually our enemy and they have just entered with different uniforms to brainwash the people and to implement their organized plans to establish churches and centers and convert Muslims.
We have many wishes, but who can we share it with? In the 30 years of war we have lost our trust in our leaders and we can not trust on anyone. If someone really wants to work for this country, we don’t trust them because we think that he might be loyal to another country. ... First they should build trust in the country and then to think about hopes. There is no future for this country – even we can not make a plan for next year. If the borders open up all the people will leave the country.
I wish Afghanistan can be a peaceful country and to separate itself from interference from neighboring countries. My concern is that in our country there is a lot of poverty and no job opportunities. Our government must pay attention to the poor and the rich people but right now the government is only thinking about the rich people.
We don’t have any wishes for Afghanistan any more, because they are all traitors to this country. The rich people are torturing the poor people and those who have huge assets - their lives are improving but those who have small assets, they get poorer. During the past eight years, President Karzai promised many things but he did nothing. I am 20 years old. I shouldn’t be working but due to the bad economic condition, my sister, my mother and I all have to work to pay for our expenses.
Ghulam Mustafa Sidiqi
We have many desires from our government, as in creating job opportunities [for] poor people and a happy and good future for the new generation. My main concern is high prices and heavy traffic.