U.S. war aims in Afghanistan that call for the defeat of the Taliban and a strong central government in Kabul have become increasingly unrealistic in the face of growing violence and corruption. Skip related content

Even as the Bush administration and U.S. military look for ways to improve strategy, analysts say the next U.S. president could best curb soaring violence through political reconciliation backed by regional states including Iran and India.

"I don''t think we ever really set realistic expectations. Things have been going badly in Afghanistan since 2005 and so we appear to be getting further away from our goals. It''s probably time for us to examine them," said Samuel Brannen of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

The future of U.S. policy on Afghanistan will soon be in the hands of a new president, as the United States votes on Tuesday on whether to send Democrat Barack Obama or Republican John McCain to the White House in January.

Both men have said they would focus more strongly on defeating the Taliban and send more troops. Obama, who leads in the polls, has said he also would favour negotiations with some Afghan tribes who have backed the Taliban up to now.

Meanwhile, experts see further need for fundamental change in U.S. thinking.

Brent Scowcroft, former President George H.W. Bush''s national security adviser, is especially concerned about the U.S. push for a highly centralized government in Kabul, a sharp departure from Afghanistan''s history of tribal governance.

"What I''m afraid of is that by trying to create a unified central government, we''re not going to be able to succeed. And in failing, we may fail more catastrophically than if we try, however imperfectly, to form a coalition of governing groups," he said in an interview.