The killing of Army Maj. Gen. Harold J. Greene in Kabul by an Afghan soldier at a training academy and the refusal of Afghan politicians to agree on a new president seven weeks after the election call into question once more why the United States maintains a presence there. About 30,000 U.S. troops remain and the Obama administration wants to keep nearly 10,000 there after the end of this year.
Gen. Greene, the 2,318th American to die in the war, was part of the U.S. mission to train Afghan forces to keep the Kabul government in power against the Taliban at least until the last Americans leave sometime in 2016.
It isn’t clear that the uniformed shooter was a member of the Taliban. He may have been simply an Afghan with a grudge against Americans, foreigners or the government. The killing occurred when the Afghan fired a NATO assault rifle into a group, wounding a German general, two Afghan generals and 13 NATO soldiers.
Besides the military tragedy, things are also not good on the political front. Two rounds of elections have yet to produce a successor to President Hamid Karzai. One of the two finalists, Ashraf Ghani, finished well ahead of the other, Abdullah Abdullah, but Mr. Abdullah is claiming fraud. Secretary of State John Kerry thought he had brokered a deal under which all 8 million ballots would be recounted, both candidates would accept the outcome and both the winner and the loser would be included in a new coalition government. That deal now seems to be falling apart.
A complication is the fact that a U.S. troop presence past this year depends on the conclusion of an accord between the two countries on the rules governing the extension. Mr. Karzai has said he won’t sign it, but both presidential contenders have said they would. The United States withdrew its last troops from Iraq at the end of 2011 because no U.S.-Iraq status of forces agreement had been concluded. Some Afghans may believe they can get rid of all U.S. personnel at the end of this year if they don’t elect a president to sign the pact.
A growing number of Americans would probably appreciate that outcome, bringing this 13-year-old war, the nation’s longest, to an end.