An Afghan Exit Strategy
President Hamid Karzai's statement in his inauguration speech, that he expects Afghan security forces to be running operations across the country within five years, is the latest sign that an exit strategy is being formulated.
In itself Mr Karzai's statement might seem like little more than a pious hope - given the fact that his forces lose so many to desertion (around one quarter each year) that they are struggling hard enough just to maintain their current strength.
But his words follow those of Gordon Brown on Tuesday in his Mansion House address, when he hinted that an international conference might be held in London which might begin to set a timetable for the transition to Afghan control.
In between the Brown and Karzai statements came one from Barack Obama, saying that he did not intend to make the US military presence an open ended commitment that would need to be solved by his successor.
Combine the recent words from these three players and what starts looking likely is a conference at which the US troop reinforcement could be presented as part of a wider package that includes charting a pathway to Afghan security control, sets out reforms to the government of Afghanistan, launches an anti-corruption drive, possibly the formation of a new more broadly based government, and coordinates all of this with pledges of development assistance.
This may well mean that early next year there could be a big international moment - a conference of Afghans, donors and troop contributors that would set the future course in a way that has not been done since the 2001 Bonn Conference.
Mr Brown said on Tuesday that he was offering London as the venue. Whether this will appeal to the other participants is a moot point, since it smacks of Downing Street trying to set the international agenda in the run up to an election.
So will the US troop announcement have to wait until this conference, possibly in January? The ominous possibility that President Obama might leave it five months between receiving the McChrystal Report and endorsing the reinforcements needed to make it work seemed a little more real yesterday when he said that he would be announcing his decision in the next 'several weeks'.
Equally, it may be that Mr Obama (as many are predicting) makes an announcement after the Thanksgiving holiday weekend near the end of this month, or indeed before it upon his return from his Far East tour.
However, if the precedents of this long and tortuous policy re-think are followed he may well want to know more about how the international conference is taking shape, even if he does not wait for the event itself, before announcing his reinforcements.