An Exit Strategy From Afghanistan

Big issues remain, including a deal with the Taliban and the question of an American residual force, once the combat mission ends.

Comments: 164

  1. This is not "a conflict that seems headed, at best, for a stalemate." Everyone assumes that as soon as we leave, the puppet we set up and pay for will collapse. It is over. We lost. There is no other possibility any remotely realistic person believes.

  2. The Taliban cannot be negotiated with, insofar as whatever they agree to (if anything at all) will immediately be rendered null and void at their will. They have an agenda and they will do whatever it takes to accomplish it. They cannot and should not be trusted.

    Time is always the enemy of the current Afghan regime, but it is the friend of the Taliban. They can afford to wait.

    The only approach to stopping them that has a remote chance of working is one in which there is a strong central government that coordinates with and supports district and local governments. If the locals cannot benefit from a government that will protect them from the Taliban all else is inconsequential.

    Such governments do not yet exist countrywide. If not given enough time to form and implement them (central, district, and local governments) the results will be disastrous. How much time is needed is the question.

  3. "How much time is needed is the question."

    Time's up. Twelve years is all they get.

  4. Well, twelve years from the US and NATO is all they get.

    Afghanistan's only hope is that others will take up the cause to assist them in building a legitimate self-governing state that can provide all those things a government should be able to provide its people, assuming that is what Afghans want.

    I cannot believe they want to return to the rule of the Taliban.

    Accomplishing the task will require more resources than any one nation can and should be asked to provide. I guess the question is, do the Afghans and international community agree it is a worthwhile cause?

  5. That American troops are not the solution to Afghanistan's problems has been amply shown.

    Let the Afghan people use their own methods to solve their own problems.

    Horrible regimes like the Taliban have come all over the world for thousands of years.

    They have to run their course.

    Like our gridlock in Washington.

    You cannot bomb it away.

  6. " ... come and gone ... "


  7. Though a few bombs or drone strikes on Congress is a tempting idea....

  8. If only this government could learn from its own disasters of late, in Iraq, Afghanistan. These are ancient cultures and to imagine we can bring what we call freedom to people in countries far older than ours is delusional. And how many men and women, on our side, those we attack and civilians have died or had their lives destroyed by our interventions?

    This administration is now behind yet another incursion, this time into Africa. Syria and Iran have been threatened, though thankfully some of those tensions seem to be easing, at least for now.

    Meanwhile, other powers waiting in the wings, like China, India and Russia, have the good sense to preserve the money in their treasuries and avoid preemptive wars and overzealous military forays. Being a leader in the world does not mean bullying or proselytizing, we have problems aplenty in our own nation, let's address those.

  9. Iraq is a mess, but it's a much better country today than it was in 2002. I spent a year in Iraq from 2007-2008 and worked with some very bright, and educated Iraqi officials. They have the ability and willingness to strengthen their country and make it a strong member of the international community. I have a lot of hope for Iraq, but much less with Afghanistan.

  10. Yes, those crisis have passed a little because Obama is in power and a little because we don't have any money for adventures.

  11. Which of the following countries would seem to have the least to worry about from a theocratic Sunni government being reconstituted in Kabul: Iran (theocratic Shiite government), Pakistan (more-or-less democratic government threatened by its own Sunni extremists), India (democratic government controlled by Hindus, with restive Sunni population in Kashmir), Turkey (more-or-less secular democratic government composed of Sunnis), Russia (restive Sunni population in the Caucuses), China (restive Sunni population in Xinjiang), Uzbekistan/Tajikistan (secular Sunni dictatorships) or the United States (halfway around the world with no problems from its minority Muslim population so long as Democrats control the government)? Now remind me as to which of the countries mentioned above is the only one with troops fighting in Afghanistan.

  12. Oops: make that Caucasus. Have had Congress on the mind lately.

  13. There are 1.6 billion Muslims. Only 20% are Arabs.

    The nations with the most Muslims are Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Egypt.

    Only 15% of Muslims are Shia.

    America still has theocratiic and secular Arab dictator allies and friends flush with oil and American arms.

    Only 2% of Americans are Muslim. The same number who are either Jewish or Mormon.

  14. Brilliant. Stu Freeman for President!

  15. Karzai should stop directing traffic, by demanding that the US continue to pay the 80% annually necessary to maintain his government, continue to send our troops into Pakistan to chase the Taliban and pay with our lives, but not do so in Afghanistan, and not offer our troops immunity.

    Instead we should demand that he and his corrupt cronies pay the 80% to run the government and hire his own mercenaries, from the proceeds of our aid they stole from the US, deny them asylum around the world so they have some personal skin in the game, and we should get out and not lose any more American and NATO lives. Let them pay the freight with their own money and lives. Give them total control of their own destiny. He's a talking tough, so let the tough get going!

  16. Abandoning Afghanistan after the Soviet war led to 9/11/01. Trying that again as you suggest is a very bad idea.

    America needs to supply Afghanistan with humanitarian aid including clean water, food, medicine, health care and education. And America needs to engage Afghanistan diplomatically as a nation and people to people by NGO's.

    The Taliban are all Pashtuns. As is Karzai. But not Pashtuns are Taliban. And not all Afghans are Pashtun.

  17. I know, I know, we are affected by what goes on in the Middle East and in Asia and in Africa, we can't not be involved.

    Yet it bothers me that we are telling other countries how they should be governed, while we are not setting an example of effective and democratic government, uncontrolled by a rich minority, ourselves.

  18. You are talking about the rich liberal 1% - correct?

  19. It;s time to pick up our toys and come home, Nothing more can be accomplished in Afghanistan. The Taliban will be back, Karzai will be long gone or dead, and Afghanistan will descend back into it gory inertial war of religion ideologies and tens of thousands will die. The graveyard of nations has its name for a darn good reason.
    We are delusional to believe all be well just because we wish it so, it will not. Women will be repressed, infidels stoned or beheaded. Strict Islam is going to return. There is not a damn thing we can do about it, except leave, stay gone. Unless they of course give refuge to terrorists, warn them if we return it will be total destruction of every building, warehouse, storehouse, outhouse, will be leveled. You will be living in the stone age

  20. 'there will be total destruction of every building, warehouse,storehouse, outhouse,will be leveled. You will be living in the stone age'

    Your comments is why other nations consider Americans ignorant. Bombing everything that doesn't move in military conflicts from Dresden,North Vietnam to Afghanistan have left your country weaker both internationally and morally.
    Read some history , see how Rome-of which your constitution and state architecture was modelled after- treated its enemies ; they were accepted and ruled the world largely from patient diplolmacy not military 'terrorism'.

  21. Perhaps you endorse the protection of terrorists by religious extremists ?
    So I am the typical American ?
    You sir are almost as ignorant as a person can be unless of course you've NEVE read my comments
    niobium Ont Ca. I am by no means a warmonger as is PROVEN through 10 years of online comments, I also am a realist knowing the world far better than you with your admission of saying Americans have an issue. I am not one of those Americans, However, extremists, protecting terrorists is where I do draw the line, Live once get burned, we did, it will never happen like 9/11 again, unless those obtain a small dirty bomb or nuclear bomb. In which case, rest assured much of the middle east would be glass.

  22. The Taliban was evil when the USA went into Afghanistan, but now that the USA is frantically looking for a way out, the Taliban is the group the USA is willing to deal with. They're still the Taliban, a Wahabbist fundamentalist gang that wants to keep little girls from going to school and will kill to make sure this will be the way the country is run.

    Talk about hypocrisy...

  23. Why demonize a group we are trying to negotiate with to bring peace to Afghanistan? It is not a matter of who wins a war, it's about how to achieve peace. Recall the 'evil' group arrived out of necessity, in an attempt to smother the post Soviet social chaos and anarchy. They did stop opium production, and most Afghans will tell you they brought law and order, though excessively, but it may be what was needed to bring a semblance of order to a nearly obliterated society. They also stopped sexual abuse of children. Yes, they had Draconian laws like grow a beard, no music, no fun. The reason for this period of mourning is for the deaths of millions of Afghans during the Soviet butchery period. You want to fly a kite, dance, have fun after your country has been ravaged, with a nearly decimated population?

    The whole reason Afghanistan spiraled out of control is because the US abandoned Afghanistan 28 years ago. Who is really evil is a question of the ages, that history will reflect on, and hoping our leaders learned lessons.

  24. Afghanistan shall collapse shortly after our withdrawal of the bulk of our troops, a fact of which the Taliban is fully aware, which is why it has no intention of making any reasonable deal. So we should refuse to make any deal with them, including releasing any of their leaders we hold, as our war with them shall continue in some way after we leave.

    As to making a security agreement with the Karzai regime, what is the value of a deal with a corpse? Whatever it is we would agree on would mean nothing unless the regime were to survive, which it will not. And any troops we leave in country will become hostage to events, being trapped in country without reliable supply lines.

    And who are we impressing here anyway that we should spend any more blood or treasure to secure? Afghanistan is a lost cause, its culture irredeemable and the security and prosperity of its citizens not worth a single American tax dollar.

    Our goal should be the prevention of the Taliban gaining enough security and control to attack us again outside of Afghanistan, and we can achieve that far cheaper and more reliably by supporting anti-Taliban tribal forces, inducing a state of permanent war and chaos in-country. Which should be our policy, especially in comparison to spending more money on the unspeakable Karzai and his band of thieves.

  25. The Taliban did not attack us!

    How short are our memories. The Taliban was controlling the country, and gave refuge to Bin Laden. They asked for proof before any agreement to turn him and his ilk over. We refused and invaded.

  26. The whole of our reaction to the lucky hits given us via easily hijacked airliners has probably been the worst return on a military investment in world history, with the German invasion of Russia standing as close comparison for sheer financial/material/military folly.

    In response to this nightmare of bad reaction, Americans have refused to acknowledge what is wrongheaded war making (although we are supposedly "war weary") and have refused to place the financial costs in the ledger under misguided spending. We instead now call infrastructure spending wasteful, lionize the credulous young troops that enabled our foolish leaders to execute their poor military decisions, while the public actually dares to toy with what would be a far greater quagmire, a war with Iran.

    American spillover flood of cash and bribes (the surge) dumped into Iraq & Afghanistan will probably fund the bad guys there for decades while the costs partially ruin us here at home. I can't tell for sure but reading the local papers I don't think we even managed to raise the price of heroin on our streets. Nice work guys.

  27. I'm not an isolationist ... but.

    At the moment we need to prioritize in terms of whether the problems of our own government demand more attention than the problems of running the Afghanistan government. Telling other countries what they need to do sounds pretty hollow when we can't run our "democracy" without shutdowns or the threat of potential collapse of world economics.

    By definition corruption is much broader than accepting bribes. Our own corruption is more subtle and legal. Regardless, we need to increase our focus here at home and end the ongoing takeover of our government by home grown extremists. That would give new meaning to the term "homeland security".

  28. Karzai doesn't want our troops to remain in after 2014? Fine, let's bring them all home and scuttle any remaining equipment. It lasted long enough, time to get out and spend the money in the US where it is needed.

  29. As usual a Democrat President has to try and clean up the mess created by the GOP predecessor. Karzai was selected by Bush/Cheney not popularly elected by the Afghans. My belief is that we should continue the wind-down and leave intelligence assets in place to keep us in the loop to warn us of impending terror attacks. Selective killing with drones or special units on the ground would be faster, cheaper and more effective than continuing to train a force that is of questionable loyalty.

  30. On a recent flight into Kabul, an Afghan-American told me he was coming back to buy property. Prices are low now, but he expects them to go up next year. I have worked in Afghanistan for three years. The young professional Afghans I work with are apprehensive but not as pessimistic as many of the commentators. Perhaps we should wait and let history decide if the efforts we have made here are successful.

  31. I'm all for history. Read Afghanistan's. There's a difference between optimism and delusion.

  32. 40B/350,000 = $114285.71 per trained individual. Could we not have achieved more for our investment using education, health care, ag assistance than lubricating what appears to be a deeply corrupt war machine. Trappings of state in a tribal culture does not warrant deep investment in my humble opinion.

  33. which means we need to begin thinking about a lawless state where we fight using special forces and drones strictly for counter terrorism. They will have to fix the rest themselves. We only went there for al Qaeda in the first place. We are real dupes if we keep putting dollars there that only become fuel for their corrupt activities.

  34. "As it winds down its 12-year-old military commitment in Afghanistan, the United States is still looking for a face-saving way out of a conflict that seems headed, at best, for a stalemate."

    Commitment? Too late for "saving face."

    Headed for? This has been an 11 year stalemate with no way out as long as there are U.S troops on the ground in the "graveyard of empires."

  35. PS:
    Bin Laden is dead (caught and processed in Pakistan) – over and out.

  36. Our sole objective in Afghanistan post 2002 should have been to keep Al Qaeda from returning and setting up training camps. That can be assured with a small footprint.

    So I still do not know why President Obama reopened and escalated this smoldering conflict in 2009 - and he has never explained it - but there is nothing to win there and there never was. Instead we should have negotiated with the Taliban right then and there. Now it is too late.

  37. Exactly what do you think anyone can "negotiate" with the Taliban? What do 'WE' have to offer other than getting out of their country? 'We' can't even "negotiate" with our own 'T', the Tea Party.

    "Our sole objective in Afghanistan post 2002 should have been to " ... get out!

  38. Which country, ever, has used the presence of US troops and funds to "build a government committed to delivering services and to winning the loyalty of the people". Why would anyone think this is even a plausible outcome of our guns and money approach to international development assistance.

  39. Japan? West Germany? Long time ago but I think it worked for the Greatest Generation.

  40. The three most egregious unforced errors of the prep school cheerleader, geopolitical tyro, appointed President by family retainers on the Supremes, in order:

    Allowing bin Laden to saunter out of Tora Bora.
    Occupying Afghanistan.
    Picking Hamid Karzai and continuing to support that particularly feckless, venal, American toady, for lo these many years.

  41. The Bush Doctrine policy of invade, occupy and democratize was dead on arrival. You can't tame a culture. They must evolve on thier own. Our Afghan adventure will yield new dynamics but not much else.

  42. The best exit strategy is to pack up and leave. Let them sort it out and do not offer Karzai political asylum in the West. End of strategy.

  43. Once NATO and US forces leave Afghanistan will devolve into areas dominated by warlords and the Taliban. Our exit strategy should include all our soldiers to include any advisors. The current Afghan government has demonstrated on numerous occasions that they are not be trusted and are convinced the US is some kind of sugar daddy to be milked. President Karzai will probably ask for Air Force 1 to transport his family and whatever money he can pack in the cargo hold out of the country.

  44. Not worth one more fatality, bring all of them home and do it today. This was thr real tragedy of not having money for relarives of deceased soldiers, for what did they die?

  45. the coat to remove our weapons from Afghanistan would be worth incurring. Too bad it isn't part of the discussion.

  46. What we need to do is leave a "lovely parting gift."

    Under phony secrecy, we need to dig a very deep, deep hole in the ground in the center of Afghanistan. At the bottom, we should bury something. Then cover up the hole, and surround it with row after row of barbed wired.

    Then leave the entire mystery of this war behind all of us.

  47. On a recent flight into Kabul, an Afghan-American told me that he was returning to buy property near Jalalabad. Prices are low now, but he thought they would go up next year. I have worked in Afghanistan with young professionals for three years. They are apprehensive about 2014 but not as pessimistic as many might think. Perhaps we need to wait for history to decide if our efforts here have been successful.

  48. The U.S. is seeking a "face-saving way out," as you say. So we couldn't beat the Taliban in 12 years and now think a tiny remnant of our force will accomplish something valuable? Oh, come on!. Afghanistan is not worth the expense, and certainly not worth any more American lives. The only way to save face is to admit we made fools of ourselves and show we've learned a lesson. We don't achieve anything by acting like we have a useful role to play when it's so clear we don't.

    Also, we need to overcome the political correctness that prevents us from questioning the competency of the U.S. military. If the Army and Marines can't beat the Taliban in 12 years, who can they beat? Taxpayers are not getting their money's worth.

  49. Geo-political concerns in the region argue for our need to retain a presence in Afghanistan. One goal is to provide some stability regardless of how messy Afghan politics and culture may be. Pakistan also plays a role in our thinking here (another subject unto itself). Karzai knows what could happen following a complete withdrawal just by looking at Iraq. He will eventually come to a deal following jirga and parliamentary approval.

  50. What happens now matters little to anyone except Karzai. He alone enjoys his power and solely will his future depend. President Obama will do the right thing if and only if Karzai comes through with proper legal protections.

  51. What the Afghans want and need is US guarantee of their security which we won't do because it brings into direct confrontation with Pakistan. Which, incidentally has been the source of the problems in Afghanistan through its support for the Taliban.

    Without taking out the sanctuaries in Pakistan, we had little luck battling them in Afghanistan even with 100K + troops. Now we are offering the Afghans a residual force of 6K that is going to fight in Afghanistan without being subject to their command and their laws.

    It's no wonder that Karzai's government has taken a leaf from Pakistan's playbook: negotiate with a gun to their own heads. If you don't save me, bad things will happen to you.

    It worked for Pakistan.

  52. Can we skip the "face saving way out" of Afghanistan? We should have a no-nonsense policy built around the tough-minded pursuit of American interests.

  53. We should not leave a residual force in Afghanistan. It will not accomplish anything of value. After 12 years of American military operations, the Afghan population, fueled by its clergy and traditional resistance to foreigners, hates Americans and will target the remaining forces for retribution.

    The country is a haven for Islamist jihadis who will be funded and supported by both Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. As they always have been supported by our erstwhile allies. In this part of the world, religion is politics and politics is religion. It is time to recognize this simple reality.

    The major lesson the United States should learn from the Bush / Cheney wars is that we cannot export "freedom" to cultures that do not value individual human rights of those who do not conform to Islamic law. Witness the chaos perpetrated upon the Christians in Egypt.

  54. That Afghanistan would fall to the persistent but poisonous Taliban after the Americans and their reluctant helpers leave would be a great tragedy for the Afghans who have somehow endured decades of war and occupation. This is why I believe we should not cut and run but continue to develop an internal force against radical Islamic tyranny. Karzai and the elders would be stupid not to accept this help. He must know that the Taliban wait patiently for a time to eliminate him and any other leader opposing their view of history. This brutal, patriarchal, misogynistic view of society must not be allowed to succeed in Afghanistan or in any of the other countries in which it now resides and festers.

  55. On a recent flight back to Kabul, an American-Afghan told me he was coming to buy property. Prices are lower now, but his belief was that the situation would be better, not worse, next year, and that prices would go up. The Afghan people I have worked with for the past three years are not as pessimistic as the editorial board. Apprehensive, yes. So many rush to be "right" about Afghanistan and claw at the thought that what has been done here might actually succeed. Perhaps we should wait and let history decide.

  56. How hard is this problem really? Thirteen years ago we had no presence in the country, and we can easily withdraw and then have no presence again.

    Same as the Soviets. I wonder how many Russian political meetings start off with a statement like "Gosh if we only still had 100,000 troops in Afghanistan."

    Those who think our national security is at stake invariably have something to sell you.

  57. Please remember why we went to Afghanistan in the first place -- there used to be those two big towers in lower Manhattan.

    I don't disagree with the comments about the lost opportunity and squandered money, both are true. Of course, we can just pack-up and leave, but I'd plan on being back in Afghanistan a few years -- and for similar reasons -- in that case.

    Many Afghans understand this and they understand the difficult situation that both they and the international community are in. Let's hope that both sides can find reason.

  58. Not likely.

  59. Our stated purpose in going to Afghanistan was to find bin Laden and bring him to justice. All well and good, but (a) we didn't catch bin Laden in Afghanistan, and (b) in trying, we brought down the existing government and thereby became responsible for fixing it. That was, to use a phrase au courant, a fool's errand.

    You cannot take a country that is almost devoid of modern infrastructure, that imagines its women to be virtually property, that values religion over education, and that accords loyalty based on tribe and clan, and make that country a functioning democracy in a time or at a cost that Americans would be willing to pay.

    American occupation recast a Japanese military dictatorship as a democracy in the image of the New Deal, and Allied occupation did the same for West Germany. But both of those countries already enjoyed modern infrastructure and education. We've spent longer in Afghanistan than in either Japan or Germany, and the country has made only very limited progress toward modernity or democracy.

    It's not that it's time to go. It's that we should never have gone.

  60. But the money and the majority of the people came from Saudi Arabia; so what's your point?

    Perhaps we should have invaded Saudi Arabia instead, but of course we all know the answer to that question.

    Maybe if the FBI had listened to some of its agents and maybe if NSA had done their job 9/11 would not have happened. We could debate that subject for the next thousand years and still get no where with it.

    No one will ever tame, conquer or rule Afghanistan except it's myriad tribes and clans. Always have, always will.

    The British lost there.
    The Russian lost.
    And; so has the United States.

    We need to get out as soon as possible and leave these people to their own devices.

  61. Our greatest error is thinking of Afghanistan in western terms. It is not a modern society of numerous laws such as our own. I believe 350,000 Afghan troops are far more than sufficient to administer internal security there. There is however, a disadvantage in the fact that we trained them probably to be a well regimented, spit and polish army that robotically conducts itself. Robots are no match for seasoned rebels of simple lives but capacity to adapt new ways outside of that regimented army way of life, or death if you will. As long as the Afghan military conducts itself rigidly complying to order, they will lose against adapting rebels. Consider that fact, teach the Afghan military to incorporate that adaptation characteristic, and then we can leave and the Afghan army will succeed.

    In war, chaos always succeeds over order.

    I recommend making peace with all Afghans. Diplomacy works because following every war, the weary make peace.

  62. Extraterritoriality, rights demanded by and given to European and US colonists, including immunity from local prosecution, was a leading cause of the demise of the Qing Dynasty in China (and the decades of turmoil that continue to this day). Extraterritorial rights in Afghanistan would undermine the government there and solace the Taliban. If we do not trust the Afghani government enough to respect their sovereignty, what are we doing there?

  63. The Afghanistan may be corrupt but in my experience so are the Americans. They are trying to foist psychiatry and psychotropic drugs to solve personal problems using the courts. Every time there is a rampage by some emotionally disturbed person then they all pile on because they see the openings 911 offered to create a police state. Remember McCarty Have an argument with your wife and now the agency "protecting" the children gets involved and next thing you wind up with is a psychiatrist making statements for the court that are lies and the court mandating you take psychotropic drugs and can't see your kids. I was in Vietnam and see that Washington is terrified that Afghanistan will also go down. If someone had told me years ago that America was repressive, I would not have believed it. Remember McCarthyism. He is gone but the psychology is alive and well. I tried to get my own psychiatrist, who bluntly told me his parents argued everyday and couldn't see why I couldn't see my kids. These power hungry psychopaths make the Muslim clerics look good. These people want the Americans out for good reasons that the Americans are too arrogant and stupid to see. They don't even see what goes on in their own country and yet are deluged with media propaganda.

  64. While I wouldn't make a habit of it, adopting the French facility with the bald face sometimes can be helpful. It was Charles de Gaulle who advised Richard Nixon on Viet Nam to simply declare victory and leave. Sadly ...

    Barack Obama is a ton more nuanced than Richard Nixon ever was, and not as defensive about so many things; and we live in very different times. I understand that Mr. Obama only reads the NYT, so he's unlikely to catch my posts in the WSJ, where I've been far more strident on this issue. If he should happen to catch this comment, I'd respectfully advise that he take counsel from another president, and simply declare victory and leave Afghanistan. I, for one, would cheer a gutsy, bald-faced expression of monumental good sense.

    Whether it's next month, next year or after another ten years of American blood and fortune, Afghanistan is going to sink back into the arms of the Taliban. Short of a generational commitment of our blood and our fortune, we are not going to change this. So, why not make it next month, become a hero to a ton of Americans on BOTH sides of the ideological trench, and save a lot of heartache?

  65. Charles de Gaulle WAS right. We should do the same with Afghanistan. Declare victory and like a shepherd get the "FLOCK" out of there.

  66. The Karzai Government won't collapse because it never was a "government" at all, just a family-run kleptocracy siphoning billions of American taxpayers' hard-earned dollars to off-shore havens. Thoroughly sated if not obscenely bloated by its orgy of stealing the Karzai clan will bolt shortly before the last American combat troops depart. After a brief interlude the Taliban will walk into Kabul unopposed and set up shop. Afghanistan will revert to the Biblical relic it was before we stumbled in and broke our teeth on it.

    This terrible albeit eventual outcome was self-evident from the very first day of our absurd involvement there, even to a casual observer like myself. Why it escaped government officials' notice I find inexplicable.

  67. Sure the Afghans are responsible for their share of corruption. But why have we allowed USAID and DOD to pay known defrauders of the U.S. taxpayer to receive massive contracts in Afghanistan? We're still using Luis Berger Group and KBR. The economic picture should be clear: American contractors earn a lot of money through these wars, and the scrappy "rebuilding" projects they enact. It's a tragedy we don't have a watch list for them. We can't get immunity for our troops because of former Halliburton contractors in Iraq. These are the fighters, architects, planners and manufacturers of our modern war and reconstruction efforts. They should be unwelcome everywhere, but first of all, in the U.S. They have certainly put the Cayman Islands on the map. Let them sit in the empty offices they keep there, and let American taxpayers audit them into non-existence.

  68. I hope that USA considers in its exit strategy, what effect will the $40 billion of weapons & training being given to Afghan National Army will have in the region. I for one worry that after the US exit, the Taliban will overrun the country and these weapons will be passed on to them. I also suspect that the the trained Afghan soldiers will also defect to Taliban.

    Awash with latest weapons & trained soldiers, they will turn their attention towards Pakistan where they will team up with TTP to try to conquer Pakistan. It is interesting to note that Pakistan armed forces has spent less than $40 billion over the past 10 years.

  69. So, we have a president who is willing to negotiate with the Taliban - the folks responsible for 911, but he was unwilling to negitiate with the elected representatives of the American people about a program that doesn't appear to be working and is detested by large segments of the America people.

    We have come along since FDR demanded the unconditional surrender of the Axis powers and Ronald Reagan said tear down the Berlin Wall.

  70. And so the cash express for the Karzai family will continue for a few more years. Why doesnt Steve Coll write his next book about how successive American Presidents have closed one eye to the blatant Karzai inc corruption.

  71. Dragging Afghanistan out of the Dark Ages was always a long shot.

    But when George W. Bush abandoned our troops in Afghanistan with no mission, no leadership and no strategy IN 2003, our complete and total failure was assured. In fact, Afghanistan contributed to the fall of the former Soviet Union...and it may yet take down the U.S. as well.

    Barack Obama has been monumentally stupid to stay on the Bush path.

    Every penny that has been spent on Afghanistan, and every word that has been written about Afghanistan (including my own words), and every life that has been lost in Afghanstan...has been a complete waste.

    And yet the NY Times keeps defending this failed, mission-less, leadership-less and strategy-less fiasco.

    And the media is currently doing its best to rehabiliate Dick Cheney's image.

  72. Don't be misguided: it's not at all about rehabilitating Cheney's image, but rather Obama's so he can have his "mission accomplished" moment.

  73. Since it is abundantly clear that the best we can hope for is stalemate, what is to be gained by losing the lives of any more of our soldiers and dumping a seemingly endless amount of money into the bottomless pockets of warlords with a mindset forever stuck in the 12 century?

    We don't have to regard this as a total loss; after all, President Obama, along with a little help from Seal Team 6, got what we went into Afghanistan for in the first place. Bin Laden is now sleeping with the fishes, so let's bring our brave men and women home for the holidays. Why put off the inevitable one day longer?

  74. What I would like someone to do is articulate what we, the US of A, gain by being in Afghanistan one more minute.

    More security? The Taliban has no way to invade us militarily. Their ability to launch some sort of terror action in our shores was never impeded by our invasion of Afghanistan and never will be. Al Quida is the striking arm of that danger and it is, and will remain, an internationally based and computer-linked crime organization. We can't shut it down by military strike even if we were to invade and occupy every country on the planet.

    Economic security? The entire US nave is incapable of preventing Somali pirates armed with Kalozshnakov rifles from seizing oil tankers. Nuf sed?

    Economic gain? Afghanistan has, so I understand it, about a trillion dollars worth of rare earths and other minerals. WE've already spent that much and will spend that much more, so anything American mining companies could eventually recover will still leave us in deficit.

    Military security? If the Taliban took over today Afghanistan will never have a viable military force capable of striking any ally of ours within 1,000 miles, or even next door. Pakistan and India are more than capable of dealing with anything Afghanistan could launch in a conventional sort, and as already noted, the ability of terrorists to launch guerilla attacks has never been hindered in the least.

    End it now, today. Defund the war, give our commanders 3 months to skedaddle and call it good.

  75. We have our own nullifying tribal councils, so we can understand how Mr. Karzai can't guarantee anything on behalf of Afghanistan.

    Again, we learn too late the lesson that injecting our military willy-nilly into another culture's woes often only adds another variable to those troubles.

    I would prefer many areas of the world accept the 20th, if not the 21st, century: if AIDS weren't rampant in Africa, where Christian groups tell the credulous that condoms cause, rather than prevent, the spread of the disease; if female circumcision were not forced on young girls in many Muslim cultures; if raping young girls were not considered recompense for insult in some Muslim cultures; if sex slavery were not an established practice in many nations; if children in Guatemala City were not forced to grow up in city dumps in order to preserve United Fruit's profits.

    I would like to send in troops and stop all of those practices. However, I know that merely sending in troops will not change those practices anytime soon unless we are also willing to arrogate to ourselves decisions that we claim should be made by "the governed." And even then, whose "American values" should we export?

    Look around closer to home: Areas occupied by the USA still harbor some delusional leaders and cruel practices, like vaginal ultrasounds for women seeking legal abortions and rejection of Medicaid expansion by cruel and unusual Republican governors, including my own Governor LePage.

    Whose values?

  76. That is a false statement predicated on ignorance and hearsay.

    Name one Islamic country that does this?

  77. Two comments that allow for different outcomes than your editorial predicts: 1. Hamid Karzai has not been Afghanistan's choice for President, but rather that of the United States. He has never had an indigenous base of support, thus the corrupting use of American money to keep him in power (as well as American body guards to keep him alive). Ironically, US policy, by decrying his unpredictability and corruption, has undercut what limited allegiance he has been able to acquire. The end of his presidency may allow for a more indigenous base for the exercise of public power, more responsive to the will of the people. 2. The Taliban has never had wide public support, as is true of all extreme Islamist groups throughout South Asia. Their greatest strength has come from their opposition to US (ie foreign) military presence in Afghanistan. Our withdrawal will weaken, not strengthen, the Taliban, and allow for more indigenous, and hopefully more open, expressions of leadership in a very war torn and devastated country sorely in need of recovery.

  78. We can leave now or waste a few dozen more American lives and billions more in dollars. It will make no difference. Afganistan will end up with the government that it wants not what we want. How many failures does it take to realize that in the long run we cannot dictate what kind of government they have. What is the definition of doing the same thing time after time and expecting a different result?

  79. Afghanistan was just another shameful waste. There will be dozens more in the decades ahead unless we change our ways. The American taxpayer is expected to pay for the policing of the world while his own schools, roads, and bridges crumble into dust. Anyone who disagrees is labeled an "isolationist."

  80. self inflicted damage for the US. a calamity of major proportions. why do we care who rules Kabul to the extent we are told we should? Folly and madness, which must be brought to an end. By the next president?

  81. I see no reason to prolong the agony by keeping any troops in that region. We need to bring them home and stay out of misadventures in foreign places over which we can never have any control. Afghanistan has won again.

  82. Looks like another Korea to me, where we still have troops stationed 50 + years after that miserable war was ended. It won't be long and we'll have troops stationed in just about every country in and around the euro-asia continent costing the American tax payers hundreds of billions of dollars to maintain, while depriving out own people of decent healthcare and infrastructure. How stupid is our government? Do they never learn the lessons of the past?

  83. The difference is that the South Koreans wanted us to stay. The result has been that South Korea has a thriving economy and eventually developed a type of political democracy while facing the polar opposite to the north. It has been worth it.

    Our experience in Afganistan has been a brutal slog. It is not worth staying for any reason.

  84. America needs to unconditionally militarily disengage from Afghanistan. That we continue to quibble and cajole with Karzai and or a deeply corrupt national government just adds insult to already great self-inflicted injury.

    Any resurgence of al Qaeda can be dealt with by means other than boots permanently on the ground in Afghanistan.

    After 12 years of first indifference and then vacillation in what has been essentially a failed American military excursion with predictably egregious consequences, there is certainly no way to put a saving face on this long and very costly war.

    One more grievously misconceived and mismanaged war that should have ended years ago. We learn little about the real limits of our very costly military capabilities because with each of these ill fated efforts there is no effort to hold either our top political or military leadership accountable.

  85. The Taliban is a violent but mystical force that is going to have to be dealt with internationally if it becomes a more serious threat to Afghanistan and the region, but the best nations to deal with it are neighboring countries that both better understand its roots yet have a stake in its containment. Its complete eradication will only come with education and time. I would rather see the US remove troops completely, as our presence only serves to foment tensions and resentment, and instead, focus on the surrounding nations' military capabilities which could do a far better job of keeping the Taliban in check should its territory broaden.

    The realities are that Karzai runs a corrupt government, and he's as close as it comes to a hopeless cause with regard to "a deal." Hence, the sooner the US withdraws completely, the more willing neighboring countries - both wary and exploitive of the US presence in Afghanistan - will be to step up to the plate and be more reactive toward a Taliban resurgence.

    Ironically, one of the countries that we are about to embark on negotiations with - Iran - is one of the nations that could be of express help in controlling the Taliban threat. With five countries bordering Afghanistan, including China, the solution is containment, which means enhanced aid to those countries with a better incentive to keep the Taliban from establishing strongholds within their borders and thus, gaining much more ground in Afghanistan.

  86. W/Cheney chose Karzai. We should apply the Biden solution that should have been used in Iraq - partition the country into at least two parts and fund the Northern Alliance and drone-strike the Taliban and their poppy filelds on a very regular basis. Rip up about a hundred mile stretch of any road we built on the southern side of the partition and sow the new border with mines.

    We can't change the Taliban any more than we could change the Vietcong. Unlike the Cong, the Taliban have demonstrated that they intend to protect crazies that have and will continue do us harm. Bottle them up and keep them stuck in the eighth century. Make them Pakistan's problem. Prop up the north as long as they keep moving into the future. And smack down McCain, Petraus, et al because the Repub "moderates" forced the stupid surge. It has failed twice now. Enough!

  87. More imperialism is the answer? Are W/Cheney still in the WH?

  88. No, but McCain, Graham and other militarists are still in the Senate. Petraeus will be rehabilitated if we don't repudiate the surge strategy and just might run for President. Aside from that Mullah Omar, Zarwahiri and the Taliban are still out to kill us. Maybe they will hit the Bay Area Rapid Transit system next.

    Meanwhile those that fought the Taliban crazies before we woke up from Reagan's and the Bush's dream deserve some support, and their heroin is easily available even in San Francisco. We helped break it. Should we walk away again like Bush senior did? Worked out well last time didn't it.

    Leaving us with two ignorant wars means W/Cheney are still very much haunting the White House. Enjoy your little bubble SW.

  89. We don't need to save face. We need to save American lives. Declare victory, pack up our things, bring our all people home, and let the brigands we leave behind cut each others' throats. If the jihadis revert to evil doing against America from a camp in Afghanistan, we can lob cruise missiles in their tents. They'll get the message.

  90. The 2012 Bumper Sticker said it all: Bin Laden Dead, GM Alive. Why are we still there? This is what Iraqis asked American soldiers after Hussein was captured and executed.

  91. Instead of training Afgan forces in Afghanistan why not bring them here to train. It would save us billions.

  92. You write: "These arguments might be convincing if Mr. Karzai and his cronies were leaders who had used the last decade, and billions of dollars in international assistance, to build a government committed to delivering services and to winning the loyalty of the people."

    And Washington has a problem w this?

    You also write: "American commanders concluded some time ago that the war could end only with a negotiated settlement, not a military victory."

    Yes. Some 2000 years after Alexander did. Or was it Hannibal?

  93. It will be a good idea that US work with the Pakistan, Saudi and other Islamic nations to make a collective condemnation of Taliban's barbarism and insurgency. This will put pressure on those religious fanatics to give up on their insurgency.

  94. Dear Obama Administration,

    Can we finally get out of Afghanistan altogether? Haven't we thrown enough good money after bad? I can't think of a single politician who has made a compelling case for why we need to stay in that godforesaken country for another day.

    Thank you.

  95. At the end of the Vietnam war, a US Senator had the best line on how to finish the war in a honorable way: Declare victory and get the hell out of there!

  96. It should not be difficult. Leave.

  97. misleading title for an artcile that provides no solutions

  98. Pull everyone out now, leave no one behind and spend the money on something else or don't spend it at all. What value to the American people have we really received from the untold billions spent? And while we're at it, curtail all the bribes we're paying to every other country in the world. I somehow doubt we'll lose much by doing that as well.

  99. We should be less concerned with saving face and more concerned with saving American lives in Afghanistan.

  100. "Big issues remain, including a deal with the devil."

  101. Why can't you simply admit that corruption is how this country wants to control everything. They can't live without it.

  102. As an ardent reader of the NYT for the last 10 years, I have followed your coverage very closely. I find it quite amusing how the US government influences the NYT. Its subtle but it happens. The notion of press independence is a hoax. The most visible example of this is how Pakistan bashing by the NYT has towed the US government line. My Pakistani government has been dismal in its ability to control extremists in FATA but amazingly the NYT has stopped bashing Pakistan and so has the US government. I am leaning more towards the Guardian these days for its moral stance against governments. I hope the editorial board at the NYT realizes that it is loosing readers like me.

  103. Let us withdraw completely from Afghanistan now.

  104. I see no reason for our presence there.

    We got Osama. Let Karzai deal with the Talibans. And NOT one cent or one single drop of our blood in Afghanistan after 12 long years.

    With a clear warning, as we leave that land: They will hear from us should there be a need for us to protect and defend our interests there or those of our friend and allies, or should the Talibans step outside that land.

    ENOUGH already.... WE are tired, and we hear lectures from Karzai, and NO thanks.

  105. The Editorial Board simply states that Mr. Obama's argument to keep troops in country, possibly to 2014 as originally proposed, merits a hearing and justifies, without argument, that Obama deserves a chance to "save face". I respectfully disagree. The war in Afghanistan is the same as the one in Iraq. Our troops will pull out and all hell will break loose, leaving a small US "training force" to fend for itself. The Times must abandon its partisanship and call for all troops to come home, no matter who is in the WH. Dem war mongers now look suspiciously like Repub war mongers.

  106. If and when we leave Afghanistan, it will snap back to what it would have been had we never gone there. Same with Iraq. The politicians responsible for wasting billions of US taxpayer dollars in these countries should be held accountable.

  107. Three complete defeats for the USA: Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya. Face it and stay home.

  108. Could not disagree with you more! Iraq, maybe considered a loss because it is worse off now than when we went in? The only complete defeat the US suffered was when your women's hockey team beat ours a few days back!

  109. Hamid Karzai 'won' his last election by sending his goons around to kill his opponents campaign workers. His 'government' is a collection of warlords and drug traffickers supported by the USA. Other than murdering folks and selling heroin they don't contribute much else to Afghanistan. The USA installed them in power and has had JSOC hit teams running around the country murdering people and torturing them at sites run by the CIA and now the editors at the NYT are wondering why Afghans hate the US... seriously?? "Hearts and minds" is purely a creation of the Western media. US policy over there is to kill people. Ask Sgt Barnes.

  110. Let's hope Karzai and whatever poses as government in Afghanistan will not approve of our demand to give American troops immunity. Then we will, like in Iraq, have an exit strategy called get the hell out.

  111. Wait, Obama himself stated many times that Afghanistan was the war that had to be won. Now the U.S. is withdrawing, and letting the Afghans dictate the terms. When our troops our out Obama will declare victory, and the Taliban will resume control. What a joke.

  112. Notwithstanding the outcome after we leave, it is very disheartening that you consider our efforts in Afghanistan a joke.

  113. The Afghans had no trouble fighting off the Russian occupation----now, they seem
    unable to accomplish any success fighting the Taliban or AlQuiada even after
    being supplied with superior American training & weapons!! It makes no sense
    other than they don't seem MOTIVATED TO SUCCEED. After all of the money &
    our dead & wounded soldiers invested there, we now have a dead end.

  114. So there is a couple hundred at most Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. And we are going to spend 5-10 billion per year after spending $50 billion to arm and train. And the Afghanistan economy is around $6 BILLION PER YEAR. And we are going to cut food stamps by $4 billion a year. wow.....

  115. The Taliban did not attack America on 9/11/01. They have fought against the American invasion and occupation of their land. While al Qaeda plotted and planned 9/11 partially in Afghanistan there is no evidence of Taliban involvement.

    When the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan with the aid of Pakistani intelligence and the Haqqani network America winked yawned nodded and looked the other way. Supporting a military dictatorship in Pakistan along with a extremist fundamentalist state in Afghanistan was consistent with American policy and practice throughout the Muslim world.

    After all America had helped to arm and train the men who would form the Taliban during the Soviet Union invasion and occupation. Pahstuns an ethnic plurality in Afghanistan and 15% of Pakistanis. Other ethnic Afghan warlords also rose including Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazzaras. Foreign fighters like al Qaeada and Osama and Ayman also were armed and trained ultimately by America.

    America went into capture or kill all of those involved in 9/11 or any repeat. A very limited counter terrorism strategy that some how morphed into regime change and counterinsurgency. In a nation that buries empires since the days of Alexander the Great through Genghis Khan and Tamerlane ,the British, Soviet and American empires. POTUS Obama foollishly agreed to escalate the scale of the war with more troops and body count strategy.

    This land will never be Kansas. There is no military solution to the ethnic conflict.

  116. First of all 'Pres.McCain' will put in his two cents for staying in Afghanstan. Let him go over with his kin to add their blood. And second Karzai wants us there merely as his personal bodyguards to protect he and his Swiss bank account. If Karzai truly wants to keep the Taliban at bay, UN or NATO troops would do just fine. The photos of our young people from the "Wounded Warrior Project' should be enough evidence that our duty is done

  117. No more!

    No more investment of energy, capital, and lives of brave young American soldiers!

    Let us completely withdraw from the medieval, corrupt society now!!!

  118. You fear negotiations with " unpredictable tribal council..."

    But out in the country, it's a country of tribes.

    After ignoring centuries of Afghan history, we need to pack it in now.

  119. Karzai will leave his job as the richest man on the planet, thanks to the U.S., the Taliban will be back stronger than ever and we will look like the fools we are for wasting the lives of our children and billions of $$$

  120. Just leave.

  121. when US had the option to settle the issue by diplomacy they used their fist.Taliban actually were willing to surrender in 2001 but US wanted to kill or capture all the Taliban and Al qaeda and they made no distinction between them.
    Now US and its allies are tired of this war and want to get out infact Taliban were considering hand over of binladen if US gave them the proof of Bin ladens involvement in 9/11 but they wanted to show their power of aggression and now see the reality ,lot of soldiers lost their lives,lot of of them are disabled and wasting billions for just war mongering illegal aggression

  122. Perhaps not doing may give a better result for America, even in the long run. See how communism feel. Didn't cost the US a dollar for the USSR to keel over. See how USSR destroyed Nazi Germany. The US role in it was mostly spectator and the UK role in it was minor or insignificant. If US lets Pakistan and Afghanistan be they will sort themselves out with a lot of blood of their own peoples and a little blood of foreigners. Some religions just prefer red.

  123. While I totally agree with your conclusion, I must question your version of history a bit. Yes, the USSR played a major role in the destruction of Nazi Germany, but given how much of their forces were supplied by the US, and how much of the German forces were tied down to the Western front by the involvement of the US and the UK, I cannot agree that their role was insignificant.

    None the less, I agree that we should let the people decide for themselves what form of government they want.

  124. Maybe bring back the Northern Alliance?

    The Afghan Northern Alliance, officially known as the United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan (Persian: ‏ جبهه متحد اسلامی ملی برای نجات افغانستان‎ - Jabha-yi Muttahid-i Islami-yi Milli bara-yi Nijat-i Afghanistan), was a military front that came to formation in late 1996 after the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (Taliban) took over Kabul. The United Front was assembled by key leaders of the Islamic State of Afghanistan, particularly president in exile Burhanuddin Rabbani and former Defense Minister Ahmad Shah Massoud. Initially it included mostly Tajiks but by 2000, leaders of other ethnic groups had joined the Northern Alliance. This included Abdul Rashid Dostum, Mohammad Mohaqiq, Abdul Qadir, Sayed Hussein Anwari and others.

    The Northern Alliance fought a defensive war against the Taliban government. They received support from Iran, Russia, India, Tajikistan and others,[1] while the Taliban were backed by al-Qaeda and Pakistan Armed Forces. The Northern Alliance was mostly made up of ethnic Tajiks, but later included Uzbeks, Hazaras, and Pashtuns.[2] The Taliban government was dominated by Pashtuns with other groups being the minority. After the US-led invasion and establishment of the Karzai administration in late 2001, the Northern Alliance broke apart and different political parties were formed.

  125. The emergence of the Taliban is precisely due to the looting, raping, and pillaging by members of the Northern Alliance post-Soviet. Then the comes along and US installs these same looters to govern the country, and surprised at the indecent amount of corruption within the government, like Afghan leaders bilking billions from Kabul Bank deposits made by poor Afghans.

    It is ironic to know the Taliban then strictly prohibited opium production and brought law and order by forcing the Northern Alliance to a small corner of the country. So are we demonizing the right bunch?

    The US should've recognized the Taliban government before AQ even had a chance to arrive to AfPak, and then carrot and stick the Taliban into the mainstream of IC.

    If the US is going to undertake these kinds of roles - projecting and protecting its authority - it needs to do a much better job, because so far this new type of projecting authority on behalf of others is really divisive, like in the US Congress.

  126. a deal with the taliban,how that sucks,to give those misongynist fanatical throwbacks whose only goal is the destruction of any humanist agenda and the imposition of feudal sharia the slightest respect is to betray every soldier who ever laid down his life to (supposedly bring democracy and justice to these lawless tribal regions) to leave people like the little girl they so callously shot,for the simple wish for an education, to the mercy of these bearded stone throwing fanatics,fundamentalist sharia imposing islam is on the march world wide backed by the inexaustible oil wealth of saudi arabia(your alli{and pakistan)most of your enemies are spawned in these countries, spewing its evil fundamentalism and inflexible message from countless maddrasses,There should be no dialog,only their destruction and the encouragement and backing of moderate people who wish to step into the 21st century with a civilised code of conduct for ALL of the various religions and people in muslim territories.

  127. When it comes to Afghan perception on their country, most blame the U.S. for not fixing --despite the billions poured in during the past decade-- their country, including the corruption inflicted by Karzai and his cronies. Until the Afghans wholeheartedly stand for their country, the outlook will remain bleak. The funny thing, I noticed is that majority of Afghans claim patriotism and love toward their country. But when it comes to governance and public service they fail to deliver.Having worked within the Karzai administration, I can attest that even the technocrat Ministers get corrupt. The main source of corruption and cronyism comes from the Afghan Parliament. The parliamentarians are making the executive branch corrupt as each Minister needs to get a vote of confidence to take the office. To return the favor and on insistence of the parliamentarians, the Minister fill in most senior level positions in Ministries and Embassy's abroad with brothers, cousins and other close relatives of the Parliamentarians. All the final approval comes from President Karzai, after all it is a centrally administered Government. This in return fueled the corruption. An ordinary Afghan who is not blood related to any of the 250 parliamentarians or the 30 Ministers (which is the case for millions of Afghans) is basically a no one. This, in addition, to the President Karzai's bad leadership allowed Taliban to remain a viable alternative force, as is put by the editorial.

  128. Time and again we are told of the dismissive statements toward the US by Mr. Karzai. What are we gaining by remaining in a country that does not want us and that is costing loss of our young men and billions we definitely cannot afford. Time to bring all our troops home as soon as possible.

  129. If the Taliban takes over some or all of Afghanistan once again, so what? That's a problem for the Afghans, not for us, unless the Taliban foolishly decides to have their country become a haven and training ground for al qaida militants once again.

    Should that happen, we have drones, special forces, and terrific bombers and air support that we can use, and that's leverage the Taliban understands.

    Until that time, we should leave Afghanistan after destroying the entire opium crop. The world would be a lot better off without the vast quantity of opium produced by Afghans. And we should cut off the multi-billion-dollar funding of Karzai and his cronies, freeze their bank accounts, and deny the Afghan mafia sanctuary in the United States.

    We've been suckers for far too long, and at too high a price in American lives and limbs.

  130. Since the Soviet withdrawl, it has been an Afghan vs. Afghan conflict with foreigners supporting the sides. US is supporting the current regime while foreign fighters, Pakistan sanctury, and unidentified benefactors are supporting the other side. I don't think the US should get involved in what is essentially a civil war, but America treats its involvement more as a counter-terror operation in response to 9-11 and then choosing sides in Afghan internal problems.

  131. The common people's common sense can't recognize America'a insistence. Immune system is apparently the matter of sovereign's discretion. Leave it to Afghans, the others are American domestic problems, resolve domestically(industry, veterans est.) The world's recognition how America doing the globe are changing day by day, and now the world will not side with America to stay there anymore. Each country may prepare domestically now in serge of the terrorists in their country.

  132. Some girl children were able to get an education because of our presence there. That may be the only good thing to come out of this debacle--perhaps that is the seed that will eventually bring stability. The US with all the money and troops in the world cannot do it.

  133. The Afghans have bent the will of the mighty British empire, the mighty Soviet empire and the only reason they can’t bend our will is because we never went in there to establish empire. We went in there to bring the perpetrators of 9/11 to justice and that mission has been largely accomplished. As a bonus, we did give back to the people of Afghanistan their freedom and helped initiate the foundations of democracy. The rest is up to them.

    So we can exit with our heads held high, irrespective of what the Afghanistan government decides on what continuing role we should play after our 2014 withdrawal. We will also be leaving Afghanistan with a relatively stable government and a largely restored national infrastructure. They have far more to lose, including another takeover by the Taliban, than we do. Besides, we don’t need boots on the ground as long as we continue to have drones in the air to continue to enforce our security interests.

  134. ‘...the United States is still looking for a face-saving way out....’
    As if face-saving was the chief issue. Sorry, fellows, you lost face right from the beginning of Bush’s vile, stupid & brutal bit of adventurism & there’s no way out without the accumulated disgrace.

  135. Send the bill for this war to Richard Cheney, George W. Bush and the neocons who instigated it.

  136. FYI, Obama voted hook, line and sinker for this war, and he stated categorically that "it is the war that must be won".

  137. No bill to Obama? For extending and intensifying? For being a coward?

  138. Barack Obama has been President for almost 5 years and we still have troops in Afghanistan? Somehow, Obama managed to remove all American troops from Iraq. Sorry, Afghanistan is the war Obama said we had to win, Obama increased the number of American troops in Afghanistan with a "surge" and Obama now owns Afghanistan.

  139. Not to be shortsighted, I am certain the "what if's", looking two steps beyond and projecting what the outcomes would be if US troops were to totally depart AF by the scheduled departure date in 2014. "Worse case" scenario: the Taliban have influence over a majority of AF, if not all of AF.

    Of course, we have Vietnam as a case study. But, the war waged by the North and the Viet Cong in the south was a war of nationalism and not a means to spread communism throughout SE Asia. We know the results of Iraq. Back to secular religious conflict between the two major sects of Islam; Sunni and Shia.

    And then there are the "minor" conflicts in Central Asia between the Muslims and the countries from the old Russian Republic (Eastern Orthodox.)

  140. And 40 years later, we have very good relations with Vietnam, and the children of those who fought each others are meeting as tourists and hosts, or buyers and sellers.
    Get out, let the Afghans determine for themselves who they want to govern them, and let the scars of an over long running war heal.

  141. The American People don't have the slightest interest in Iraq or Afghanistan and could not care less whether either country embraces democracy.

    I doubt whether 1% of the nation can even name the President of Iraq, despite the hundreds of billions of dollars spent putting him and his government in place.

    Once we pull out our troops, the stories of suicide bombers and little girls being shot for going to school in Afghanistan will slowly move off the front page and into obscurity.

  142. With allies like Karzai turning hostile and Taliban impatiently awaiting chance to capture Kabul, the US is compelled to fall back on Pakistan, the nerve center of global terrorism. As such, without wasting time for working out any exit strategy, the US should get out of the Afghan mess as early as possible. For, having left the Afghan mission unfinished, ever since US sought the Iraq diversion, not only the al-Qaida/ Taliban forces have returned back and reconfigured their ranks there, but Pakistan too finds the US withdrawal moment an opportunity to influence events in the post-US withdrawal Afghanistan. This leaves the US with no genuine interlocutor, or trusted ally which might help it plan a well thought out exit strategy that also helps it retain some influence there. So better quit the Afghan quagmire.

  143. First of all we are not wasting billions of dollars, rather than funneling billions of dollars back into our own defense industry. If not there, then somewhere else tomorrow. Get over if.

  144. Pack bags, get on a plane and Adios!
    We will be paying for this fiasco for years and the vets will suffer a lifetime.
    The Military-Industrial guys will be looking desperately for a replacement war.

  145. Inasmuch as President Obama trumpeted that this is the war that we need to win, are we, again, redefining what the word "win" means?

    This has all the earmarks of tucking tail and fleeing.

    Perhaps we should remember that this same strategy when used in Vietnam resulted in most of a decade for foreign policy problems including the hostages that were our loyal embassy staff in Tehran.

  146. The last comment says it all... US security is the ONLY factor we should be considering, and that may best be secured by being prepared to strike agin, not by staying and sacrificing more American lives. If the Afghan people even begin to unite against Islamicist terrorism by their own (Taliban or otherwise) against their own women and girls, they can garner our support with educational and health funding going to a non-corrupt, non-Taliban government. Doubt that we will see any such electoral outcome is up to their own people and their own, American-trained forces to have such an outcome materialize.

  147. The end of a failed mission that cost trillions and thousands of lives. And Afghanistan remains one the most corrupt of countries while the Taliban wait in the villages and mountains to start the next civil war in their bid for power.

    Well done America. Perhaps drones could bomb a few more weddings and funerals as a parting gift?

  148. The end of this disaster was apparent from the beginning. We will declare something like "peace with honor" and leave. The Taliban will resume control, there will be a flood of Afgan refugees, and we will debate for the coming decades whether the billions of dollars and thousands of American lives were spent well or wasted on a fool's errand.

  149. We should withdraw and take our materiel home with us. Letting the Afghans control a remaining force is insane. As soon as we are gone, the Afghans will go back to business as usual. It's their country, after all.

    In case no one has noticed, we don't have extra billions lying around doing nothing. Forget building an infrastructure for Afghanistan. Fix our crumbling bridges, putting Americans into real jobs.

    I would also suggest that since women will be the whipping girls of choice once we leave, we might consider offering Afghan women and their young children asylum in the US. If the women leave, the men will be powerless to have a civil war. With no one to wash their shorts and cook their meals, they'll be useless.

  150. "Forty billion dollar investment in American weaponry and training." Amazing. What's our return on that investment? It certainly isn't tangible, so there must be some intangibles, and there probably are. But forty billion worth?

    I volunteer at the food bank. The line grows longer each week. It breaks my heart when a little girl says "Thank you" in her small piping voice when I put a can of stewed tomatoes in her sack. I think about the millions like her, food insecure in this rich land.

    Sometimes the best exit strategy is simply fold and leave. Horrible things may happen in Afghanistan on our departure (if we ever truly depart), and truth be said the continued "investment" of American life and treasure will not significantly change the course. We desperately need to put our own house in order: to remove the log from our own eye before we can remove the mote in our brothers.

    Whatever John Kerry may have agreed to (and here we go again with more secret agreements), it is unlikely to be in the best interests of either the American people or the citizens of Afghanistan.

  151. "American commanders concluded some time ago that the war could end only with a negotiated settlement, not a military victory."

    I think that this statement should be revised to read, "American commanders concluded some time ago that the best we could hope for is a negotiated settlement, not a military victory."

    The Taliban is certainly looking at a military victory. Why should they negotiate in good faith when we are leaving anyway. They don't have to win any battles, just outlast us. The victory will go to the last side standing on the field of battle. That won't be us.

  152. Since we went into Afghanistan drone technology has developed by leaps and bounds. We should welcome the opportunity to bring home all of our troops and rely on the occasional Hell Fire missile strike, etc to disrupt any gathering of people we believe may be concocting a threat to the US or our vital interests. This is what we already in Pakistan.

  153. As The Times states, the Obama Administration seeks to keep us in Afghanistan at some level without explaining why. It appears to be just another sorry chapter in the instinctive desire of our security and military officials to never pull out of anyplace because . . . we don't get much of a because, but we do get lots and lots of U.S. bases sprinkled around the globe at great cost to us, sometimes in lives as well as money. In this particular case it's in a country whose soldiers and police periodically assassinate our troops.

  154. We need to immediately leave this hopelessly corrupt country that fights endlessly against us while it contemplates electing a Taliban supporter for president. President Obama should not have decided to place a surge of troops into this war. What poor foreign policy.

  155. Blaming it all on Karzai and self-inflicted damage is far too emotionally convenient to teach much to the American people. Look in the damn mirror already.

  156. So, don't we have a debt problem in America? Didn't we just come close to defaulting on nearly $17 trillion IOUs? Aren't we cutting benefits to American Children and poor? Didn't we just WASTE over a trillion dollars in Afghanistan over a last decade? What US economic interests were served by this $trillion spent or additional hundreds of billions required to stick around there in the future?
    So what's a good exit strategy from Afghanistan - get out QUICKLY, stay out of Afghanistan and all other '............STANS' essentially where the crazy Muslims are killing non-Muslims and other not carzy enough Muslims. There is a rot in the core of Islamic civilizations in the form of radical Jihadis. Only other Muslims can bring these crazies under control. Unless, they quetly endorse all the in-human things these radical groups are carrying out all over the world.

  157. The best outcome for the U.S. departure from Afghanistan? A safe exodus and a slow news day.

    Along with waging war in Afghanistan, the United States has worked to rebuild the country. But, after more than a decade and nearly $93 billion spent on reconstruction and security programs, there are still worrisome lapses in accountability, management and effectiveness.

  158. October 21, 2013

    Afghanistan remains by its own nature a political social mess yet hopefully not forever.
    Why: the claim by the leaders is that no institutional advisers are needed to collaborate with the kind of nation it sees itself on the world stage – so its exit is unknown except for its heavenly questing.
    America and the International forces that have heroically cleaned up most of the mess of criminals in endless base camps – yet Afghanistan remains with urges for to many to wantonly to continue producing a drug culture and seeks medieval breeding it extraterritorial permissiveness.

    Best we cope and live with the long road ahead – for the more things change the more they…..

  159. We needed to focus on Afghanistan after 9/11, not Iraq. Duh. The whole set ot problems we have had in Afghanistan, mainly that of Taliban resurgence, is linked to that error by our former (gasp!) President, George W Bush. Shame on him and the nation that let him dupe our country into invading poor, now hapless Iraq.

  160. How about we just bring our troops home now? All of them.

    My son has been to Afghanistan courtesy of the Marine Corps.

    His comments to me suggest that the troops know it is time to pack up and come home.

    So let's do that and wish the Afghani people a pleasant life if their neighbors will go along with that, and if not, best of luck.

    Time to deal with the numerous issues we have here in the US of A.

  161. The Afghan war was lost the day it started, since it was based upon a premise that the U.S. could impose its will on a society it did not understand. As with Vietnam, the U.S. misunderstood or never bothered to learn the forces operating within Afghan society, and failed or refused to listen to those who did. Once again Washington seeks a "decent interval" to allow the U.S. to escape without embarrassment. Pray for the Afghan people who have been the victims of this hubris.

  162. We should thank the 'new' Iraqi government for showing us the way - get ALL the troops out of Afghanistan. If we leave a small number, say 5000, what will be their mission (not that we ever think of that before getting into another war) ? Not enough to stop the Taliban. Train the Afghanistan Army ? Well, how's that been going for the past 10 years ? US troops left in Afghanistan will be TARGETS. And once those targets are attacked, we'll be forced into another long, costly, ineffective, useless invasion. Bring them home. Bring them ALL home. That's our victory.

  163. Your last words "self inflicted damage "apply to the whole misguided intervention in Afghanistan. After 9 /11 there should have been a sharp punishing reaction to the sites in afghanistan which trained many of the perpetrators, then a withdrawal. O BAMA made a major mistake by continuing the mistaken policies of George Bush.