That means a residual U.S. force of 8,000 to 12,000 troops for training and counterterrorism. Americans are understandably, and rightly, weary of the Afghan war. We have invested much in the crushing of al-Qaida’s base there. Osama bin Laden is dead; we want to come home.
Were it only that easy.
The Americans will, and must, eventually leave Afghanistan for the Afghans. The British, at their height of empire, couldn’t control Afghanistan; the Russians, right across the border, couldn’t either. Washington should have no interest in trying.
Yet we have, after the 9/11 attacks, a genuine interest in seeing a legitimate government in control there to see that al-Qaida not rise again there. The weekend’s election was a positive step in that direction, but it is no guarantee.