At the strategic level, our effort continues to be undermined by the perception that the United States will again abandon Afghanistan. This suspicion makes everything our troops are trying to achieve significantly harder. It creates perverse incentives for the Taliban to keep fighting, for the Pakistani army to hedge its bets by providing support to the Taliban, and for our Afghan allies to make counterproductive decisions based on fears of a post-American future.But here’s the thing: Eventually the United States will leave Afghanistan. The Afghans will remain, and Pakistan will be next door. Everybody knows this.
Now, I don’t know how long it will be before that exit takes place. It might be next year, 10 years from now, or even another 100 years. But history seems to suggest that America will not occupy another country halfway around the world from its own soil infinitely into the future. At some point we will withdraw.
The wisest thing to do is to figure out the best way to withdraw, a manner that best mitigates the possibility of future attacks on America originating from Afghanistan. To hope that we can guarantee 100 percent safety is futile—but there’s a cost-benefit ratio to these things, and if a cash-strapped America has decided that ratio is out of whack after nearly 11 years, well, that’s not unreasonable.
McCain, in particular, would have more credibility if he’d ever demonstrate that there was a war he didn’t want, or want more of. But he’s always urging more, more, more. I get frustrated with President Obama often, but McCain does his best to remind me that we avoided a much worse president, one with a propensity to over-commit American troops to never-ending action.