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Petraeus doesn't seek 'graceful exit' from Afghanistan war. What's the timeline?

Gen. David Petraeus on Sunday said he may recommend against any drawdown of troops next summer. Here's what to expect in the coming year.

By Staff writer / August 16, 2010

In this July 15 file photo, US Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the NATO and US forces in Afghanistan, speaks during an oath-taking ceremony of recruited Afghan soldiers at the Ghazi Military Training Center in Kabul, Afghanistan. In comments from Kabul broadcast Aug. 15, Petraeus said progress in Afghanistan only began this spring and needs time to take root.

Musadeq Sadeq/AP Photo/File


New Delhi

With the number of foreign soldiers killed in Afghanistan surpassing 2,000 this weekend, what does the road ahead in that country look like?

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The tally – now at 2,002 – comes from the independent website. It includes 1,227 Americans, 331 Britons, 151 Canadians, and 45 French.

The mounting numbers have put pressure on coalition countries to wrap up their involvement in Afghanistan; the Netherlands ended its military mission Aug. 1, after four years. At the very least, such grim milestones offer a moment for taking stock and seeing what lies ahead.

IN PICTURES: US soldiers serving in Afghanistan

September: another Afghan election

Afghanistan is planning to hold parliamentary elections Sept. 18. More than 2,000 candidates are running for 240 seats in the lower house.

A top election official expressed serious concerns Saturday about the security preparations for the more than 6,000 polling stations. So far, two candidates have been killed, three kidnapped, and 10 threatened with death. Both candidates and voters have shifted their registration to Kabul due to insecurity in the provinces.

The election will still include suspected war criminals, even though the Electoral Complaint Commission (ECC) said it would try to disqualify candidates with ties to militias.

Early warning signs like voter registration problems and cynicism among candidates themselves suggest this election – like last year’s presidential contest – could be dogged by fraud.

October: winter slowdown?

Traditionally, the intensity of the Afghan conflict has decreased over the winter months as some mountain passes fill with snow. That slowdown tends to start sometime in October or November.

If the trend continues this year, it could take some of the political pressure off President Obama as he enters a couple of crucial reviews. The first will be rendered by the American people, as they head to the polls in November; the second will be a strategic reassessment of the Afghan “surge.”

November: US congressional elections

Whether the Afghan war factors much in the upcoming congressional elections remains to be seen. On the one hand, voters tell pollsters that it’s far from top of mind. In a Gallup poll released Friday, two-thirds of Americans rate economic concerns as the nation’s top problem. Only 4 percent mentioned war.