But regarding Afghanistan, I have also been inclined to see the glass as half-full — the missteps, mistakes and bad decisions notwithstanding. Part of this involves perspective. Mine has its roots in the beginning of our efforts in early 2002.

When Hamid Karzai was appointed chairman of the Afghan Interim Authority, he had nothing to work with. No institutions, no accepted or enforceable body of laws, no army, no police, no economy. There were 900,000 Afghan children in school, all of them boys. One of the first things we did after the fall of the Taliban was to open schools for girls. In January 2002, I took our first congressional visitor, then-Sen. Joe Biden, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, to visit a class of first-grade girls. They ranged in age from 6 to 12; the older girls reached school age after the Taliban came to power and eliminated female education.

When I left Afghanistan as ambassador in 2012, 8 million Afghan kids were in school, a third of them girls. Does that sound like a disaster?