Mullah Muhammad Omar must be wondering what is going on in Washington.
The reclusive Taliban leader, presumed to be hiding near the Pakistani city of Quetta, this month issued an end-of-Ramadan message in which he all but admitted that things aren't going well for his movement and its terrorist allies.
For the first time in eight years, he also indicated his readiness to consider negotiations as a means of ending the insurgency.
A careful reading of Omar's message shows three things.
* He and his close advisers are now convinced that they can't win on the battlefield.
* A growing number of Taliban allies, especially among the Pushtun tribes, are wary of endless war and anxious to reach some accommodation with whoever controls Kabul.
* The mullah is prepared to abandon some of his most retrograde positions, especially with regard to the status of women, in the hope of securing a share of power in Kabul.
Omar isn't alone in concluding that NATO forces can't be driven out of Afghanistan through terror and insurgency.
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, leader of the ultraradical Hizb Islami (Islamic Party) is also trying to wave an olive branch. In an interview faxed to regional and international media this month, Hekmatyar echoes Mullah Omar's indirect plea for negotiations and power sharing.
As the second-largest force in the insurgency after the Taliban, Hekmatyar's group has played a crucial role in spreading the fight to northern Afghanistan -- notably Kunduz, where Omar never managed to win a foothold.
The third major insurgent group is led by the Haqqani brothers, who have been responsible for much of the mischief done in the southeastern provinces. They, too, appear to have concluded that their side can't win this war. Last month, the Haqqanis dispatched their womenfolk and children to
, where they have extensive business interests -- a sign that they're preparing for an eventual retreat. They've also revived contacts with Saudi Arabia in the hope of joining Riyadh's efforts to promote dialogue between President Hamid Karzai's administration and the insurgents.
The three insurgent groups control only 11 of the nation's 362 districts, accounting for less than 1 percent of the country's population. Most of their chief bases are in Pakistan or, in Hekmatyar's case, Iran.
Yet Washington is all abuzz with the "f" word -- for what many see as looming failure in Afghanistan.
Three years ago, the "defeat industry" tried but failed to manufacture an historic defeat in Iraq. Now it's trying again in Afghanistan.