After two years in which the violence in Afghanistan has become worse, it is hard to see signs of hope in 2008.
The UN called 2007 the bloodiest year in Afghanistan since 2001. (AP photos) The detailed new international commitments, and promises of more money, put forward at the London Conference in January 2006, made little headway as the war against the Taliban went into a new phase.
In the south, mainly British and Canadian forces have sustained far more casualties during this period than earlier, as they have fought for control of the Pashtun heartland.
In the east, US forces have been trying to contain the insurgency in the giant White Mountain range, hampered by a porous border to the Taliban recruiting grounds in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province on the other side.
Development assistance that matters, and the normal business of government, are difficult to provide in these areas.
To fill the vacuum the military have been taking an increasing role in providing aid; a task that they are not trained nor equipped for…
The influential think tank, the International Crisis Group, speaks of the "failure of Kabul’s diplomatic and donor community to engage fully in the fledgling process".
The former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown has been negotiating terms for a new role in Afghanistan co-ordinating the international effort and its links with the Karzai government – a job locally nicknamed the "super gorilla".
He comes with experience from a similar role in Bosnia, but Afghanistan is a far larger task as he acknowledged recently, going as far as saying, "We have lost and success is unlikely".