As the eighth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan nears, with no end to the war in sight, the chorus of voices clamoring for withdrawal is rising. What used to be seen as the "good war" is now seen as a confusing conflict that shows little promise of success no matter how many U.S. and allied troops are involved and how long they stay.
Admittedly, the argument for abandoning Afghanistan is simpler and easier to articulate than the argument for staying.
• We've been there to long and haven't made much progress.
• The "graveyard of empires" eventually swallows all would-be conquerors.
• The country is ungovernable, consisting of rugged terrain and geographic obstacles that make it impossible to pacify the countryside.
• Planting the seeds of democracy in a place that is so politically backward, ethnically diverse and devoid of infrastructure would require too much time, money and precious lives.
All of these points are well taken. The corrupt government of President Hamid Karzai doesn't help. A solemn Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had to agree last week with Sen. Lindsay Graham, who said that even sending a million U.S. troops to Afghanistan could not restore legitimacy to the government.
"That is a fact," Adm. Mullen replied.
So why stay?
• Because denying al Qaeda and the Taliban the safety of a failed state from which to plot and launch attacks against others — and destabilize Pakistan — remains a worthwhile goal.
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