IN DESCRIBING the U.S. mission in Afghanistan after meeting President Hamid Karzai last week, President Obama said that “it was in our national security interest to have a stable, sovereign Afghanistan that was a responsible international actor, that was in partnership with us, that . . . [had] its own security capacity and [was] on a path that was more likely to achieve prosperity and peace for its own people.” What he didn’t say was that his administration is well on its way to abandoning that interest.
To preserve a stable Afghanistan after 2014, the United States and its allies would have to leave behind sufficient forces to enable the Afghan army — which currently boasts only one brigade able to act independently — to operate effectively enough to prevent the Taliban from retaking the southern and eastern territories it has been driven out of since 2009. Such a resurgence would likely plunge the country back into the civil war that raged during the 1990s and allowed al-Qaeda to create a haven. Particularly vital are U.S. air support, intelligence, mine-clearing and medevac personnel that give the Afghan army mobility and allow it to stay on the offensive.