exit will be painful, and undercuts years of U.S. efforts, but it's our least
bad choice in this doomed war.
Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and Afghan President Hamid Karzai shake hands during a joint news conference in Kabul / Reuters
The Obama administration's acceleration of its Afghanistan withdrawal deadline to 2013, a year earlier than planned, is a break with America's commitment to its NATO and Afghan allies, an abandonment of a mission Obama deemed "essential" in his 2008 campaign, and kills any chances of negotiating an acceptable settlement with the Taliban. It's also the right thing to do.
On his way to a NATO ministerial, U.S. defense secretary Leon Panetta announced on Wednesday that "Hopefully by mid- to the latter part of 2013 we'll be able to make a transition from a combat role to a training, advice, and assist role."
A little more than a year ago, at the November 2010 Lisbon Summit , the NATO allies declared -- after substantial arm twisting by the Obama administration -- that the "ISAF mission in Afghanistan remains the Alliance's key priority" and "Afghanistan's security and stability are directly linked with our own security." The allies agreed that, by "the end of 2014, Afghan forces will be assuming full responsibility for security across the whole of Afghanistan" but that "Transition will be conditions-based, not calendar-driven, and will not equate to withdrawal of ISAF-troops."