Last week, President Barack Obama outlined a reasonable plan to scale back — and ultimately end — the war in Afghanistan.
Combat operations will end in December 2014, but 9,800 troops will remain to serve as advisers to the fledgling Afghan army and participate in counter-terrorism operations.
This is the right course, supported by Obama’s defense and intelligence team.
The troops’ continued presence in Afghanistan is contingent on whether President Hamid Karzai’s successor will sign the Bilateral Security Agreement — something both candidates in the runoff election have pledged to do. And with good reason: Continued American support is essential for a smooth transfer of responsibility to the Afghan army and police.
Both potential successors have stated that they will allow the U.S. to conduct independent operations — including drone strikes — as long as Afghan officials are notified beforehand.
Far from “quitting just short of the goal line,” as House Speaker John Boehner argues, the administration has opted for a prudent, gradual drawdown that will demonstrate the independent capacity of the Afghan military and police as well as secure American gains.
The plan should remain subject to developments on the ground, but this is essential for Afghanistan — as well as for the future of American foreign policy.