Afghan exit: Reasons grow for the U.S. to withdraw in 2013

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Developments in Afghanistan continue to argue that the United States should terminate its 11-year-old war in 2013, rather than later as planned by President Barack Obama.

The United States has 68,000 troops there, with plans for them to be withdrawn by the end of 2014. Discussions are under way, however, with the Afghan government to keep up to 15,000 there past 2014. The future U.S. role has not been defined, but the troops are likely to remain in a training and supply mode, although their presence also would serve to guarantee the security of President Hamid Karzai and his associates in the face of whatever action the Taliban might take as U.S. force levels drop.

One reason to wrap up the war next year is the continuing corruption in Afghanistan, most recently exemplified by Kabul Bank, used by high-ranking Afghans, including relatives of the president and the first vice president, to funnel nearly a billion dollars furnished by the United States into Afghan pockets, much of it out of the country. Washington paid thousands of Afghan military and civil servants through Kabul Bank, making it the biggest financial institution in the country. The Bank of Afghanistan seized Kabul Bank in 2010. Very few prosecutions have followed.

A second reason is a new Pentagon study of the Afghan military's ability. Prepared before the start of withdrawal, it indicates that even after years of training, supply and other support by U.S. and other NATO forces, only a tiny fraction of Afghan forces are able to fight independently, without foreign air and other military support. One of 23 Afghan National Army brigades is considered battle-worthy.

That means the plan to train Afghans to defend the country after the U.S. departure hasn't worked. Nor has the plan to create an Afghan economic structure that could be the basis for development of the country.

In the meantime, the Taliban are free to act in spite of U.S. military actions against them, including the use of drones and the loss of more than 2,100 American lives.

It is time to say that America has done as much as it can in Afghanistan, that future oversight to make sure that al-Qaida doesn't resume using it as a base should take place from overhead and that U.S. troops should come home in 2013.

opinion_editorials


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