2014 will be the year of reckoning for post-war Afghanistan

2. Negotiations over the role of the U.S. after 2014

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has called for a quick agreement over what role the remaining U.S. troops will play once most of the American force withdraws. U.S. officials said in late 2013 that they were near an agreement only to have it derailed by new demands from Afghan President Hamid Karzai, including his insistence that his successor — who won’t be in place until April — sign off on the deal.

U.S. officials argued that the delay created by Karzai’s demand could further destabilize the country and put in jeopardy the United States’ commitment to Afghanistan reconstruction.

“The reality is these are days you can’t get back,” Hagel said recently. “It takes options away the longer this goes.”

U.S. officials said that if the two sides can’t reach agreement soon, they may initiate the so-called “zero option,” under which all U.S. forces would leave and Afghans would be on their own to resolve their problems. Hagel called that option a “possibility.”