(dpa) - Few would say the West is enjoying a resounding success in ridding Afghanistan of the Taliban, turning the Asian country into a modern democracy and ending its economic miseries.
The insurgents continue to inflict heavy casualties: 2007 was the deadliest year since the 2001 US-led invasion, with more than 8,000 people killed; while more than 30 Western soldiers have died in the first three months of this year alone.
Meanwhile, government corruption is rampant, opium poppy fields are flourishing, and the country is still close to the bottom of the world rankings in terms of gross domestic product per capital, which in 2006 was estimated at just below 1,500 dollars per year.
Even US President George W Bush has implied that the West is facing difficulties by saying NATO "must maintain its resolve and finish the fight in Afghanistan."
At a NATO summit in Bucharest on Thursday, the North Atlantic alliance and the leaders of the 14 non-NATO countries that are contributing troops to the UN-mandated International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan issued a document spelling out a long-term "strategic vision" for what looks set to become a very long mission indeed.
The four-page document is thin on detail and thick on rhetoric.
Its few numbers refer to published figures about improvements in health care and education and the mission's well-known aim of nurturing an 80,000-strong Afghan army by 2010.
Its introductory paragraph reads: "We gather in Bucharest to reaffirm our determination to help the people and elected government of Afghanistan build an enduring, stable, secure, prosperous and democratic state, respectful of human rights and free from the threat of terrorism."
But the document also contains some interesting novelties, such as ISAF's desire to increase cooperation with Afghanistan's neighbours, above all with the new Pakistani government.
More importantly, it binds the allies to a series of military commitments on the one side, while acknowledging on the other what many European countries have known all along - that Afghanistan and the hearts of its people cannot be conquered by force alone.
The third of the four guiding principle of the strategic vision refers to "a comprehensive approach by the international community, bringing together civilian and military efforts."
The balancing act between civilian and military priorities works as follows: recalcitrant allies are told they must "support each other" in the burden-sharing process, ensure they fill ISAF shortfalls and limit caveats in order to provide "the maximum possible flexibility" in the use of forces by the ISAF commander.
In return, those who insist that rebuilding schools is more effective than fighting the Taliban obtain official recognition that they have a point.
According to Doctor Citha D. Maass of the SWP German Institute for International and Security Affairs, the fact that allies in Bucharest agreed on the exact wording of a "vision statement" will do little to change things on the ground.
"Does it go beyond the rhetoric?" she asked.
"Spelling out a set of principles is fine. But how do you implement them? That is the real issue," she said.
Along with the public "vision statement", the ISAF countries also adopted a classified document which sources say containes some practical measures and even refers to an "exit strategy" for the alliance.
But given that few are willing to predict how long it will take to win in Afghanistan, it contains no fixed deadlines.