The US and its allies are doomed to lose.
A brutal truth to accept. Still it is one which must be accepted.
And, so, why the gloom laden conclusion, Geeko?
There are several reasons, bucko. Here they are in a rough order of importance.
We went about the war all wrong from the very first moment, before the boots of the first American hit the dirt of Afghanistan. The Deep Thinkers of the Bush/Cheney administration failed to conceptualise the goal, definition of victory, and theory of victory correctly. The initial failure was potentiated by trying to gain the goal and some attendant simulacrum of victory on the cheap, by "shock and awe" rather than through manpower heavy operations. Then, to make a very bad situation even worse, the administration committed the US to an exercise in "nation building" with the end product being hypothesized as a Western style liberal, pluralistic republic with all the institutions of press, separation of faith and state, autonomous judiciary, and so on that have been so painfully developed here over the course of centuries.
As a result the Taliban and al-Qaeda were never really defeated. They were given time and sanctuary in which to rest, refit, rebuild, and exploit the failures of the Afghan government put in place under the guard of our (foreign) bayonets. The ever dragging inconclusive war tilted more and more in Taliban's favor in part because the lack of manpower required the extensive use of air power. The fast movers and helicopter gunships killed insurgents, but they also and quite inevitably killed civilians as well.
The "economy of force" operations in Afghanistan (to use the ever-so-sanitary language of the Pentagon) also meant the US had insufficient troops to wrest and keep the initiative through active combat operations, provide necessary point defense against suicide bombing attacks or small unit raids, train the Afghan National Forces, and provide support for civil affairs projects.
All of these factors worked together to assist Taliban's resurgence. Also contributing directly to the Taliban breakout in recent months was the attitude and actions of the Pakistani government and its Inter-Services Intelligence agency. Taliban had critical foreign sanctuary and support, a sanctuary and support which the US was loath to publicly denounce until very, very recently.
The Pakistani support and sanctuary are unlikely to abate in the near- or mid-term given the inability or unwillingness of the Pakistani military to acknowledge that India is not the "main enemy." ISI is dancing with the devil in its relation with Taliban, but that will not force any policy change.
Another reason for the coming US defeat is the nature, character, and agenda of the Karzai regime, the regime which took power and kept it under our protection and with our assistance. Karzai, to an extent that would make Nuri al-Maliki in Iraq blush, is an openly aggrandizing seeker after power.
His administration is corrupt. It is inefficient. It is riddled with Taliban sympathisers. Karzai is willing and ready to do anything, absolutely anything at all, to win the upcoming election. From the massively repressive "Family Law" which places Shia women (at the least) back to the days of Taliban but makes the reactionary Islamist clerics smile with satisfied delight to the repeated promises to "control" the foreign troops, Karzai does whatever he can to gain and hold support through the presidential election a month hence.
If re-elected as seems most probable at the moment, Karzai will deliver on some of these promises. Women will be put back in the garbage sack, (Opps! Bad Geek! You mean the burqua) and he will seek to interject himself and his regime into the military chain of command.
He will succeed in this to a significant degree as he can control the pace of development of the Afghan National Forces whose boots must join ours on the ground if "clear and hold" is to be more than one more catchy phrase. Karzai's goal in this is to facilitate "peace talks" with Taliban and the formation of a "government of inclusion."
The usual suspect, ISI, will back him covertly in this effort through its own contacts with Mullah Omar and Company. ISI will be joined in supporting Karzai's search for peace and inclusion by two unusual suspects: The British public and We the People, the American public.
The British are showing a significant war weariness in the face of mounting casualties in the Helmand offensive. This isn't surprising. There seem to be no significant British national interests at stake in the never-ending war. This is not the old British public of Kipling's day which was content to see the bones of its sons bleach on the far marches of empire for obscure reasons of state.
Not even the bracing remarks of Joe Biden regarding the bravery of British troops or his opinion that the "sacrifices are worth it," will alter the declining support for the war in Merrie Old England. The Taliban are not the Nazis. Afghanistan does not rest across a narrow channel from the storied white cliffs of Dover. The shocking realities of 9/11 and 7/7 are now almost as far in the past as the Maggie Thatcher's Great Campaign for the Sheep of Falklands.
The American public is not far behind the British in rejecting the war in Afghanistan as SecDef Gates noted last week. The effort in Afghanistan has lasted as long as the major US involvement in South Vietnam and only the very, very low body count has prevented a wholesale revulsion at the war. (And, the absence of the draft to be sure.)
Our first post-modern president, the Nice Young Man From Chicago, to whom every person's narrative is as valid as any other, has no real stomach for continuing the war in Afghanistan one minute longer than is necessary to proclaim for one reason or another that the US has accomplished its "goals" in the place. He has already taken the first step in that direction.
The forthcoming elections in Afghanistan provide the opportunity for a graceful US defeat. As American "super-diplomat" Richard Holbrooke acknowledges, the elections will not be perfect, anymore, he averred than was that in the US in 2000. Leaving aside this inapt and inept comparison, the Holbrooke position signals that as long as Karzai wins in a more-or-less transparent effort in democracy, the results are just jake with us.
This implies that Karzai will have a free hand to carry out his efforts at brokering a simulacrum of peace with Taliban leading to a government of national reconciliation. At that point Mr Holbrooke will link arms with Karzai and Omar to sing a chorus of "Give Peace A Chance." The Americans will then leave as will the troops of other nations. We will, of course, leave behind a vast pool of money and assorted civilian experts to continue the task of post-war reconstruction.
The US will, at this point, have been defeated. On the up side, as was the case in Vietnam, it is not the formal enemy which defeated us. No. We will have defeated ourselves.
Once again we will have the chance to learn that bad ideas about war bring defeat. But, we will pay no attention to that lesson.