This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.
The surge in Afghanistan began with a bang. It just ended in a whimper.
In case you hadn’t noticed, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta mentioned its conclusion while on the other side of the planet, in New Zealand. As of a week ago, the United States had finished drawing down the 33,000 additional troops Barack Obama deployed to Afghanistan after he took office in 2009 – his chief contribution to the war.
The quiet from the White House suggests ambivalence about the results, or at least a desire not to inject Afghanistan into the presidential race. Otherwise Obama would be declaring victory and trumpeting success.
The combat units of Joint Base Lewis-McChord – our neighbors – have sacrificed lives, limbs and blood for the cause of a non-terrorist Afghanistan, so we have all the more reason to hope for decisive results from any U.S. strategy.
But like the 11-year-old war itself, the surge can be construed as either a success or a failure. The Taliban suffered major reverses as U.S. combat units pushed into territories the guerrillas had terrorized or dominated. The streets of Kandahar and other cities in the Taliban heartland of southern Afghanistan are much safer as a result.
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