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Our view: Preparing for end of Afghan war

THE FIRST AMENDMENT

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Updated: January 1, 2013 6:16AM



International combat operations in Afghanistan, now involving mostly U.S. troops, are to come to a formal end at the close of 2014, at roughly 13 years, by far America’s longest-running war.

Let us not forget we still have 68,000 troops there, battling the Taliban, including Taliban infiltrators in the regular Afghan Army we are struggling to train.

Whether the U.S. troops stay depends on signing a treaty with Afghanistan’s mercurial president, Hamid Karzai. His freedom to maneuver may be limited by the April 2014 presidential elections, only the country’s third such ballot. Karzai is term-limited and says he will abide by that limit.

But the narrow time frame raises the question of whether his successor would feel bound by any agreement that Karzai signed with the United States. Already, there is a major sticking point. The Afghans want the U.S. military to be subject to Afghan courts, an absolute deal-breaker as far as Washington is concerned. It’s exactly the reason we no longer have a presence in Iraq.

Assuming the legal technicalities can be worked out, there’s the question of how much good a residual force of 10,000 or even 15,000 troops can do. The actual training would be limited; it’s unlikely our NATO allies would be of much help and some number of those troops would be committed to protecting the U.S. presence.

True, it would be good to have Special Operations units already on the ground, but given the situation in North Africa and the Mideast, and what is likely to be a much tighter Pentagon budget, there is also the question of whether these units could be deployed more usefully elsewhere.

It may require more focus than the U.S. is accustomed to, but given the lack of attention from Congress and the public, our departure from our longest war could be sloppy and inconclusive.

Scripps Howard News Service



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