War correspondent Dexter Filkins:

We can’t win the war in Afghanistan, so what do we do? We’ll train the Afghans to do it for us, then claim victory and head for the exits.

But what happens if we can’t train the Afghans?

We’re about to find out. It’s difficult to overstate just how calamitous the decision, announced Tuesday, to suspend most joint combat patrols between Afghan soldiers and their American and NATO mentors is. Preparing the Afghan Army and police to fight without us is the foundation of the Obama Administration’s strategy to withdraw most American forces—and have them stop fighting entirely—by the end of 2014. It’s our ticket home. As I outlined in a piece earlier this year, President Obama’s strategy amounts to an enormous gamble, and one that hasn’t, so far, shown a lot of promise. That makes this latest move all the more disastrous. We’re running out of time.


The Americans have been in Afghanistan for eleven years. We can’t remain much longer because we’ve overstayed our welcome, even among our friends. And we can’t leave, either, because leaving could lead to a Taliban takeover or a very bloody civil war—and now we can barely train the local troops to take over for us.

We can’t leave and we can’t stay: that’s the very definition of a quagmire.

We cannot make those people other than what they are. After 11 years, and untold billions down the rathole, we are looking at a Taliban return to government. Time to come home. This is another Bush administration mistake that the Republicans won’t learn from. Not the war itself — we had to go into Afghanistan after al-Qaeda — but the idea that we could build a peaceable democratic nation among a bunch of goat-herders, tribesmen, religious fanatics, wife beaters, Pashtun pederasts, and the lot — including, no doubt, ordinary Afghan patriots who just want foreigners out of their land.

The British couldn’t do it. The Soviets, who were far more ruthless than we, couldn’t do it. It cannot be done.

Want to know what Mitt Romney’s Afghanistan policy is? Read it for yourself. It’s meaningless mush — “stay the course” Republican boilerplate that faults Obama for his withdrawal plan. As ineffective as Obama’s policy has been, this is the alternative? It’s no alternative at all.

Bring. Them. Home.