Speed the exit: U.S. troops have endured enough in Afghanistan

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The decision by the U.S.-led NATO coalition to end joint operations with Afghan forces was the right one.

The last straw came with the mounting loss of NATO personnel and the costly destruction of Harrier jets. This year 15 percent of U.S. and other NATO troops who died in Afghanistan were killed by Afghan government forces, most probably not Taliban or al-Qaida and sometimes dressed in American uniforms. The killers were frequently Afghans who were being trained or supported in combat operations.

The financial loss came from a shocking attack by Afghans -- this time probably Taliban -- at Camp Bastion last week. Eight Harrier jets were destroyed or damaged on the ground and two Marines, including Irwin native Lt. Col. Christopher Raible, died. The loss of the jets cost more than $200 million and the fact that the Afghan attackers were able to pierce the base's defenses suggests the attack was an inside job.

The decision to disengage with Afghan forces, short of approval from a regional NATO commander, spells an end to the U.S. strategy for getting out of the 11-year-old war. The intention was to leave with the country intact, defended by its own security force which Americans had trained and protected against a Taliban force that could overthrow the government of President Hamid Karzai.

It hasn't worked. U.S. troops have had difficulty working with Afghan security forces. Some of that could be due to cultural differences, which in principle could be overcome. That is unlikely, however. American soldiers are trained to fight effectively, not work shoulder-to-shoulder with people who are extremely different from them, speak a different language and may well hate them. The effort to train and work with Afghan forces comes against a backdrop of Afghan casualties from U.S. drone attacks, human rights violations and the other U.S. problems in the Islamic world.

Full withdrawal should be speeded up from 2014 to 2013. The United States has done all it can and needs to leave.



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