The U.S. appears to have given up on a political settlement with the Taliban in Afghanistan. If so, time to rip off the Band-Aid: The U.S. will lose the longest war it's ever fought.
Without a settlement with the Taliban, there is no hope of ending an insurgency that withstood the U.S. troop surge of 2010-2012. The U.S. will either have to rely on an Afghan security force that has killed more than 50 U.S. and NATO troops this year alone, or end up prolonging its costly commitment to Afghanistan.
According to The New York Times, U.S. officials have given up on their on-again, off-again talks with the Taliban, and are punting negotiations over to the Afghans after the major U.S. drawdown in 2014. It's entirely possible that's a negotiating tactic to compel the Taliban to come to terms. But if the U.S. isn't bluffing, writes the Times, "one of the cornerstones of [its] strategy to end the war" has crumbled.