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President Obama faces a tough decision about Afghanistan. As the debate rages over whether to stay put and add troops or pull out entirely,  many conservatives argue that the risks of leaving are grave, and include the possibility that Al-Qaeda could destabilize neighboring regimes and spread Islamic extremism across the Middle East--in essence, accomplishing the reverse of the "domino theory" that held sway among many Bush  officials and was part of the rationale for the Iraq War.

  • Leaving Could Topple the Pakistani Regime and Lead to a Nuclear Al-Qaeda, David Brooks warns in a solemn piece in today's New York Times. Brooks calls Afghanistan "central" to the fight against extremism not only because it could "again become a safe haven to terrorists, but mostly because of its effects on the stability of Pakistan."

As Stephen Biddle noted in a recent essay in The American Interest, the Taliban is a transnational Pashtun movement active in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is part of a complex insurgency trying to topple the Pakistani regime. Pakistan has a fragile government with an estimated 50 or more nuclear weapons. A Taliban conquest in Afghanistan would endanger the Pakistani regime at best, create a regional crisis for certain and lead to a nuclear-armed Al Qaeda at worst.

  • It Would be Saigon All Over Again, Pat Buchanan writes at RealClearPolitics. He foresees disaster:
Western aid workers would have to flee the country. Under Taliban control, Afghanistan would be a sanctuary for the Pakistani Taliban, which would be emboldened to settle scores with the Islamabad politicians who had sided with the United States. Taliban allies in the Pakistan army and intelligence services would be seen as on the wise and winning side, while those who sided with America would be seen as losers. The odds would rise that Pakistan would face a revived insurgency and acts of terror against the regime. The odds on the survival of a pro-American regime in a country already marinated in anti-Americanism would fall.
  • We Must Have a Stable Afghanistan, D.B. Grady argues at The Atlantic. "While nobody would confuse such an Afghanistan with Switzerland, it's hard to see how an Iran surrounded by three stable Islamic democracies would bolster the fraudulent Ahmadinejad regime. In the end, the Bush administration's domino theory might well play out accordingly." Grady says leaving Afghanistan would mean "the return of Taliban rule:"
While Code Pink proudly marches against the Afghanistan campaign, it's hard to imagine the women of Afghanistan so pleased with our withdrawal. The National Organization for Women called life under the Taliban "gender apartheid," and described a third world hell where women were forbidden from attending work or school, could not leave their homes without a male relative, and even then, only when fully covered in a burqa.

[...] After eight battle-hardened years out of power, it's hard to imagine the Taliban has lightened up, reformed, or drawn up its very own Vatican II. It is, however, quite easy to believe they've been taking names, and are quite ready to seek retribution against collaborators with the West. When the Taliban returns, they're going to go medieval on some people, literally.
  • Leaving Emboldens Taliban Across Borders, Oliver North writes at RealClearPolitics. He says the prospect of our withdrawal, "has to make the Taliban leadership, hiding out in caves along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, feel all warm and fuzzy." He says failure is not an option in Afghanistan and argues it's a war the United States can win.
Here's the bottom line, which is based on months in the field with U.S. and NATO troops and Afghanistan's fledgling security forces: This is a fight we can and must win. It is a classical counterinsurgency campaign, not rocket science. Success requires U.S., NATO and coalition forces to protect the Afghan people from the Taliban while we train and equip sufficient numbers of Afghan soldiers and police to take responsibility for their own security.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.