The visit of Afghan President Hamid Karzai for talks in Washington with President Obama marks the beginning of the end of negotiations between the two countries on the subjects of US withdrawal and the future stability of Afghanistan. After 10 years of war the onus is on everyone to get it right.
The three fundamental talking points are: how many American troops will remain in Afghanistan after the bulk of the military withdraw, immunity from prosecution for US military serving in Afghanistan and peace talks between Kabul and moderate Taliban clans.
So, how many troops will remain in theatre after the American mandate ends in 2014? The debate is still raging in the corridors of power.
The top US commander in the region, Marine Corps General John Allen, has proposed a force of between 6,000 and 15,000.
According to sources the US Defense Department has drawn up a plan, which will leave between 3,000 and 9,000 on the ground.
A major bone of contention is immunity from prosecution for US military personal serving in the country. This was a major disagreement between Washington and Baghdad when the US pulled out of Iraq in 2001.
Those in the know believe Karzai will have some room for manoeuvre on this, but it depends on what demands Washington make.
Last but not least, some form of Taliban involvement in the political process is key in order to prevent the country from slipping back into violence as soon as US troops pack up for home.
Informal meetings have already taken place on this issue.
Last month in Chantilly, France, members of the High Council for Peace in Afghanistan, the Taliban and others took part in a seminar on the future of Afghanistan.
Both leaders want and need a win-win outcome. Karzai wants to look less like a US puppet back home and Obama needs a smooth withdrawal to justify his decision to pull out of the country early.
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