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Since coming to office, President Barack Obama has pursued an Afghan war strategy summed up in just four words: “surge, bribe and run.” The U.S.-led military mission has now entered the “run” part, or what euphemistically is being called the “transition to 2014” — the year Obama arbitrarily chose as the deadline to wind down all NATO combat operations.

The central aim is to cut a deal with the Taliban — even if Afghanistan and the region pay a heavy price — so that the United States and its NATO partners exit the “Graveyard of Empires” without losing face. This effort to withdraw as part of a political settlement without admitting defeat is being dressed up as a “reconciliation” process, with Qatar, Germany and Britain getting lead roles to help facilitate a U.S.-Taliban deal.

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