Somehow the U.S. finds itself in a position of having to apologize for the inadvertent burning of terrorist-desecrated Korans; of not expecting an apology from Karzai (a recipient of the 2004 Liberty Medal) for the murdering of U.S. troops by their supposedly friendly Afghan counterparts; and of again having to apologize for a horrific mass murdering spree by a lone, rogue gunman, who, nonetheless, off-the-record, is said to be emblematic of the frustration of U.S. troops. Our troops are largely forgotten by the administration and the public, cannot trust fully those on behalf of whom they are risking their lives, and are not sure what the U.S. mission has become. When an invading and occupying force apologizes so repeatedly to the resident population, it is a sign that locals have lost any fear of its unpredictability and lethality, or respect for its proven record of reconstruction and humanity, or for its own sense of self-confidence in its mission.The answer is (b), VDH. The answer is (b). No one is fooled when the defeated occupation force "refuses to admit defeat". All that refusal does is square the stupidity. Not only was all of "the previous human and material cost" wasted, people like me have been telling people like you that for years!
So what now?
a) To escalate is politically impossible and strategically nonsensical.
b) To leave abruptly is to admit defeat and cede complete control of the country de facto to the Taliban, and to confess that the previous human and material cost was wasted, while relegating millions of pro-Western-reform Afghans in the major cities to Taliban reprisals or refugee status. (I assume that at this point the Afghan Security Forces would not fight on, or at least not fight very well, alone against the insurgents.)
c) To continue with the present policy of announced withdrawal dates, and a final departure in two years, punctuated by periodic apologies to the Afghans when their customs are abridged, or civilians killed, in the hope that the Karzai government and its successor by 2014 will come to a power-sharing arrangement with the Taliban, one that will not nullify all the gains achieved in the last decade — a dubious proposition at best.
And as for the "pro-Western-reform Afghans", screw them. Don't even think about bringing them over here, or you'll soon discover that they're a hell of a lot closer to the Taliban than they are to the West.