The U.S. and Afghan governments imagine a point in the not too distant future when American troops are long gone and leave behind a functional, safe Afghanistan. But there are many here who doubt whether that's possible.
And today President Hamid Karzai reflected the fears of his country -- and the fears of a father -- when he broke down during a nationally televised speech, saying he was worried Afghanistan might not become attractive or peaceful enough to keep even his own son from fleeing to the West.
It is an extraordinary admission by the leader and commander-in-chief of a country at war. Karzai is overwhelmed multiple times by the thought of his 4-year-old son Mirwais not being a proud Afghan, not having a country that he wants to grow up and live in.
"Whoever wants to be a true Afghan, outside the country isn't a place for us to live... If a person wants to be a true Afghan, then he will choose to live with the history, the memories, the culture... and he and his children will live in this country," Karzai began, criticizing those who choose to leave.
"I don't want Mirwais to become a foreigner," the Afghan president says, beginning to cry. "I want Mirwais to be an Afghan."
At this point Karzai is temporarily unable to speak, and the audience claps to reassure him.
The president composed himself enough to continue, saying, "I want Mirwais to be raised in Afghan soil, to go to school in Afghanistan. And I swear on God's name that I have so much pain, so much worry."
Karzai again broke down, then pressed on saying, "I am so afraid that, God forbid, Mirwais chooses to become a foreigner and leaves the country."
Karzai, who does not write out his speeches, seemed to snap out of his stupor and told the country to wake up.
"Wake up. Wake up and see what is happening in our country," he says, regaining his composure after wiping his eyes with a handkerchief and blows his nose. "This can only improve if we work hard to make the country ours. Only by our hard work can this country improve. Afghanistan will neither improve nor gain the respect of the world with someone else's hard work."
President Obama has stated the U.S. troops could begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan next summer depending on conditions on the country. Currently there are 95,000 U.S. troops deployed in Afghanistan in an effort to blunt the influence of the Taliban and other insurgents.