More than 11 years after the start of the war in Afghanistan, there is some cause to celebrate and some reason to worry. But more than anything, maybe, there are questions.
Those questions were on display Friday as Presidents Barack Obama and Hamid Karzai met in Washington to discuss the future of Afghanistan and the United States' role there.
Some celebration is justified. Osama bin Laden is dead. Al Qaeda in Afghanistan is gasping for air. Before the United States invaded in 2001, the Taliban forbade women to even come out of their homes. Now women have more freedom -- more than 2 million girls are going to school. More than 300,000 Afghan children who live in the country are on Facebook.
But it's not all good news. Military and civilian deaths continue.
Contributing on the military side is the phenomenon dubbed "green-on-blue" or "insider" attacks. Of the more than 2,000 American deaths since the 2001 invasion, an increasing number have come at the hands of the Afghans they trusted and trained.
It's worse for Afghans. Afghan National Security Forces are victims of a greater number of these insider attacks, a Department of Defense spokesman told CNN Friday.
And consider some of the events of 2012: The year began with a video showing Marines urinating on dead Afghans. Published photos showed U.S. troops posing with corpses and U.S. soldiers burned Qurans at Bagram Air Force Base, apparently an act committed out of ignorance that it offended Islam. Protests ensued.
Then there's U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, accused of rampaging through an Afghan village, murdering 17 Afghan civilians, including women and children.
On Friday, the two presidents agreed to accelerate the military transition in Afghanistan. Afghan forces will take the lead in combat missions throughout the country starting in spring, instead of midyear as was previously expected.
Even though Obama and Karzai agreed on some issues, others remain.
Who's in control?
First, Karzai isn't eligible to run for reelection in 2014. Because the country has a constitution and a working government, it's likely that at least some of the points he and Obama agree to could be carried out when he's out of power. But no one can say for sure, analysts note.
So far, who would run for president after Karzai is unclear, though some intriguing names have been bandied around.
On the ground, U.S. officials have said anywhere between zero to 9,000 U.S. forces could remain in Afghanistan past 2014.
Not only will they perhaps have to operate in the tense green-on-blue environment, U.S. trainers who are teaching Afghan military enlistees how to fight say they are under enormous pressure to meet numbers at the sacrifice of quality, experts say.
Gayle Lemmon, an American journalist who has spent years off and on in Afghanistan, most recently in December 2011, said a U.S. contractor who is training Afghan recruits complained to her that he doesn't have to thoroughly do his job.
"There has been a huge amount of pressure to put as many bodies in Afghani uniform as possible to meet 2013 deadlines," she said. "He thought he had OK people but he didn't have time to pick out who was best and train the ones who needed extra help."
The "overwhelming majority" of them are coming from "ordinary Afghans signing up for the military," experienced war correspondent Dexter Filkins has reported.
What's the tab?
This week, Karzai gave the Pentagon a wish list of hardware such as drones and helicopters that he said would help him continue to fight terrorists.
No dollar amount has been decided. Estimates range from $1 billion to $10 billion a year -- and that includes military expenses, hardware and training, the whole deal that Afghanistan couldn't afford on its own.
"These are really funny numbers because no one knows the extent of what the U.S. is willing to offer," Lemmon notes.
Whatever amount Obama administration floats will have to win approval from Congress.
Former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ronald Neumann told CNN Friday that he thinks the total bill is going to depend on military presence. At a minimum, he figures, the United States will spend $5 billion in aid and military, not counting what would be spent for embassy costs.
Those numbers cannot be calculated in a vacuum either. As a discussion at the Brookings Institute involving the former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan noted, Afghanistan is facing a major economic downturn after 2014.