Sunday's New York Times Magazine article by Luke Mogelson takes a look at the hard gains being won to buy breathing room for transition to Afghan forces.
Year after year, month after month, Helmand has ranked as the deadliest, most violent province in Afghanistan. Nowhere else comes close. ... During the coming year, the number of marines there will shrink by the thousands; as early as this summer, many Marine positions will be shuttered or handed over to the Afghan Army and the police. No one expects the insurgency to be defeated by then. The issue has long ceased to be how we can decisively expunge the Taliban — we can’t. Instead, the question is: How can we forestall its full-fledged resurgence upon our departure? Toward the end of this year’s fighting season, just before the winter rains, I spent seven weeks with marines across much of Helmand, and everywhere the answer was basically the same. First, leave behind a proficient national security force. And second, win them as much breathing room as time allows.