Who will be Hamid Karzai's successor?

Here are some of the political prospects mentioned by U.S., European and Afghan analysts: Farooq Wardak, a Pashtun who is education minister; Hanif Atmar, a Pashtun former interior minister; Ashraf Ghani, a Pashtun former finance minister who is now helping manage transition efforts; Amrullah Saleh, a Tajik former intelligence chief; Atta Mohammad Noor, the popular Tajik governor of Balkh province; Shukria Barakzai, a Pashtun member of parliament who speaks out on women’s issues; and Razaman Bashardost, a Hazara former planning minister who campaigns against corruption.

Any of these Afghan politicians (and there are a dozen more I could have mentioned) would give the country a more dynamic political face — less corrupt and more competent than the mercurial Karzai has proved to be. “We need a new political dynamic that is stable and aligned with our security interests,” stresses the NATO adviser.

With an election ahead to decide Afghanistan’s political future, why is the U.S. government trying so hard to negotiate a deal now with the Taliban? That’s a good question. Perhaps the Obama administration simply started the process of outreach to the enemy a year too soon, before a new leadership team was forming in Kabul.