One more year?

President Barack Obama has drafted Gen. David Petraeus to take command in Afghanistan and — it is hoped — to work the same sort of magic he did in Iraq.

And he gave Petraeus one year to wrap it up.

The problem is, few people believe anything will change significantly in the next year. From CIA Director Leon Panetta to independent observers of Afghanistan, the word is the outlook is grim for stabilizing the country and routing the Taliban.

So what will we accomplish between now and July 2011, when Obama says U.S. troops are to withdraw? What will the president tell the families of U.S. servicemen and women who are killed in Afghanistan in the next 12 months if the Taliban still hold sway in much of the country and Afghanistan is still unstable?

If the United States really wants to keep the Karzai government in power and the Taliban at bay, it must be prepared to commit large numbers of troops to Afghanistan for decades to come.

If our goal is simply to protect U.S. lives and prevent al-Qaida from re-establishing terrorist camps in that country, it can depend on sound intelligence work and drone aircraft.

We much prefer the second plan, especially if the alternative is leaving U.S. military personnel in harm’s way for another year, with little prospect of achieving success before the arbitrary deadline for withdrawal. Let’s hope Petraeus has the courage to counsel the Commander in chief — privately — for a change of strategy.


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