Out of Afghanistan


The presidential campaign in Afghanistan, and President Obama’s unsuccessful supplications to keep U.S. troops in the country after their scheduled withdrawal at the end of 2014, support the case for Americans’ desire to finish the 13-year-old war this year.

Ten candidates are vying to succeed President Hamid Karzai in elections scheduled for next month. They are generally undistinguished. No candidate stands out as particularly credible, someone the United States would see as an improvement over the incumbent.

More than half the political tickets include a warlord — members of a group whose power and influence the United States sought to diminish through its intervention in Afghanistan in 2001. America should have been more realistic about the prospects for change, given the country’s history.

Washington promises to stay out of the campaign and says it has no preferred candidate, out of respect for Afghans’ self-determination. The State Department financed a poll last December that identified the front-runner as Ashraf Ghani, a former World Bank official. His running mate is Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, a notorious warlord.

All of the presidential candidates profess to favor some U.S. troops staying on after Dec. 31. The U.S. presence has brought at least $700 billion to Afghanistan and has paid the salaries of Afghan government officials.

Mr. Obama has failed to persuade Mr. Karzai to sign an agreement that would permit 10,000 U.S. troops to remain after 2014. They supposedly would train Afghan forces and prevent the country from becoming a haven for terrorists.

Yet U.S. and other North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces have trained Afghan troops for years. Overhead surveillance and unmanned weapons can ensure that a Taliban resurgence, if there is one, does not result in another attack on the United States.

A mass of U.S. ground troops no longer appears necessary after this year. It is past time for the American expenditure of lives and money to end.