Leaving -- And Return To -- Afghanistan

America may leave Afghanistan, but Afghanistan may not leave America.

As influential commentators push for immediate withdrawal, they need to answer a question about what may follow if their wishes become reality. Under what conditions should the United States ever return to fight on the ground in Afghanistan after leaving?  After all, recent converts to the position that America should get out of Afghanistan haven't become pacifists. Instead they see our military's counterinsurgency strategy as nation building and believe it doesn't promote America's vital national security interests. The most prominent thinker in this regard is George Will who said he wants the United States to attack al-Qaeda mostly from air and sea, while leaving Afghans on their own to construct a state and civil society.  
Exit supporters should define what would constitute a threat to national security from Afghanistan. Would mass civil war, a coup d'état in Afghanistan or Pakistan, a successful terrorist attack on America planned from Afghanistan qualify as threats? These scenarios are possible given their arguments against staying because they take post-withdrawal chaos as a given. Those who want to leave base their arguments on the fact that matters in Afghanistan are getting worse despite America's presence there.

If deterioration in the country is a foregone conclusion, then responsibility demands those who want to leave Afghanistan prepare to acknowledge what horrors may happen and when, if at all, the response to them should be. 

Having these answers now could strengthen the cases of those who want out of Afghanistan, because it would give them the kind of clear reasons for invading (and withdrawing) that many criticized leaders for not having prior to invading Iraq or changing strategy in Afghanistan. 
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Justin Miller was an associate editor at The Atlantic from 2009 to 2011. He is now the homepage editor at New York magazine. More

Justin Miller was a associate editor at The Atlantic. Previously he was an assistant editor at RealClearPolitics, a political reporter in Ohio, and a freelance journalist.

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