In a recent article, Kimberly and Frederick Kagan outlined why a US policy of a “light footprint” strategy in Afghanistan will not be successful. The authors illustrate how counter terrorism operations in a future Afghanistan devoid of a substantial US presence would be much less effective. Current counter-terrorism efforts have been largely successful due to the strategic location of several locations to conduct operations, and by providing central landing strips from which drones and flight missions are launched. The Kagans argue that, given the limited flight capabilities of US reconnaissance planes and drones, aircraft carriers cannot be relied on to provide coverage of the whole of the region. Furthermore, the US is in the process of deescalating its troop strength in Afghanistan, which, according to the Kagans, severely limit the capability of US forces to combat Al Qaeda and the Taliban. The authors assert that anything short of the current 68,000 troops will assure that the future US posture in the region will be a weak and defensive one.

The main point of this article is that a limited US presence in Afghanistan makes no sense. If the US wants to proactively eliminate terrorist threats and maintain a strong presence in the region, a large security force is needed in Afghanistan to do so. Conversely, if there is no will on the part of Americans to stay in Afghanistan, then the US should withdraw completely because a long-term, stable presence will be unattainable. The current plan for Afghanistan reflects the political nature of conflict, but does not help us attain realistic goals. If the ultimate plan for Afghanistan is for withdrawal regardless of the level of progress made, then the rational move for the US would be to cut its losses and just leave now.