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Our view: U.S. troop withdrawal seems near

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Updated: February 16, 2013 6:07AM



If the Obama administration keeps to its announced timetable to reduce U.S. troops in Afghanistan to 3,000 at the end of 2014, the U.S. presence there effectively would be over.

The war that began there in 2001 would end.

The White House has said that absent an agreement with the government of Hamid Karzai or its successor, America and its coalition allies plans to pull out when the U.N. mandate for their presence expires at the end of 2014.

A similar impasse over a status of forces agreement in Iraq — the right of U.S. troops to conduct independent combat missions with immunity from local law — led to the earlier-than-planned withdrawal of the U.S. military there.

It is probably fair to say the American public, at least the dwindling few who still pay attention to this war, would not be brokenhearted if we completely pull out of Afghanistan.

American troops numbering 66,000 are there now, methodically turning over their outlying bases to the Afghan Army.

The NATO commanders seem agreed that a residual force of, at a minimum, 10,000 to 30,000 troops is needed to protect the status quo and continue training and equipping the Afghan security forces. A force of 3,000 to 6,000 could protect Kabul and the vital Bagram air base and not much else.

A stay-behind force of 3,000 is almost the same as no presence at all. At best, that size force might prevent another Benghazi; at worst, it would provide an escort sufficient to spirit a pro-U.S. government to the airport as the Taliban and assorted warlords closed in on the capital.

Scripps Howard News Service



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