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NATO prepares to transfer authority in Afghanistan

NATO officials are in Lisbon, holding a summit on Afghanistan. The goal is to approve an American plan to hand over control to the Afghan government and complete withdrawal of combat troops by the end of 2014. But it may not be so straightforward. Here’s what you need to know.

NATO’s top civilian authority in Afghanistan indicated on Wednesday that 2014 is just “a goal” that is “realistic, but not guaranteed.” Troop numbers may not be significantly reduced by that point, but their mission would shift to training and advising Afghan troops. Last weekend during a Washington Post interview, Afghan president Hamid Karzai criticized the U.S. counterinsurgency strategy. In the immediate aftermath, General Petraeus canceled a meeting with Karzai.

General Petraeus is scheduled to deliver a progress report and strategy review on Afghanistan next month in Washington. The three areas where most of the enemy-initiated attacks occur are in Kandahar, Helmand and Kunar provinces. Photojournalist Sebastian Meyer of the Guardian newspaper traveled to Kandahar province to see how the counter insurgency strategy is working.

After Meyer’s report, Jon Meacham parses the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan with Christine Fair, an expert on South Asian political and military affairs from Georgetown University, who spent this past August in Helmand province analyzing the counterinsurgency offensive there.