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Obama preparing for a full withdrawal from Afghanistan

(Getty/Lintao Zhang)

President Obama has instructed the Defense Department to prepare for the possibility of a full withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, the latest move in what has become a high-stakes game of chicken between the U.S. government and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

The U.S. wants to keep a residual troop force in Afghanistan to combat terrorism and help train the fledgling Afghan Army, a position shared by many Afghans fearful that the country could fall back into civil war with the departure of American troops. But for reasons that aren't entirely clear, Afghanistan's mercurial leader has so far refused to sign a long-term security pact with the U.S., and has taken to provoking his American allies at every turn.

Is Karzai using the U.S. as a bogeyman to bolster his position in secret talks with the Taliban? Is he merely crazy, or crazy like a fox? Or does he think the U.S. is so desperate for a security pact that it will eventually agree to his increasingly unreasonable demands?

Sounds like Obama may have just called his bluff.