Max Boot cautions against "going wobbly" in Afghanistan:
But President Obama’s hesitancy and irresolution should not be an excuse for Republicans to abandon the war effort. They should continue to pressure the president to respect the advice of his commanders in the field, who want to keep 68,000 troops through 2014, with a substantial residual presence after that.
What, after all, is the alternative? Peace talks have scant prospect of success given that the Taliban are now betting—perhaps rightly—that they can simply wait us out. The likely result of a precipitous American pullout, which would trigger an equally hasty exit by our NATO allies, would be a major Taliban offensive in the east and south that would aim to take back Kandahar, Marja, and other population centers that have been secured at considerable cost over the past few years. The Afghan security forces would be likely to splinter along ethnic lines, and the entire country could well be plunged into a civil war as it was in the 1990s, when Kabul was regularly on the receiving end of artillery bombardments.
So if the U.S. reverts to its "residual force" footprint now instead of 2014, all these terrible things will happen. But if we don't, then all of the nascent problems Boot highlights would be resolved or substantially mitigated in 18 months?
No one is unrealistic about what a withdrawal of U.S. troops will mean for Afghanistan's internal security, but seeing as that is ultimately an issue for Afghans to resolve, the focus needs to be on how large numbers of troops and related expenses are serving U.S. security interests.