President Obama and leaders around the globe locked in place an Afghanistan exit path today that will still keep their troops fighting and dying there for two more years, acknowledging there never will be point at which they can say, "This is all done." Obama, presiding over a 50-nation war coalition summit in his hometown, summed up the mood by saying the Afghanistan that will be left behind will be stable enough for them to depart—essentially good enough after a decade of war—but still loaded with troubles.
"I don't think there's ever going to be an optimal point where we say, 'This is all done. This is perfect. This is just the way we wanted it,'" Obama said as the NATO summit closed. "This is a process, and it's sometimes a messy process." Obama never spoke of victory. Afghan forces for the first time will take over the lead of the combat mission by the middle of 2013, a milestone moment in a long, costly transition of control. Even in a backup role, US and coalition forces will face surprise attacks and bombings until the war's end.