Thursday, March 22, 2012 | 2:01 a.m.
The initial strikes on and invasion of Afghanistan had clear objectives. We had just endured the 9/11 tragic devastation and were targeting the home base of the Taliban political and terrorist refuge, and the al Qaida brain trust who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks. Initial American objectives were achieved. The Taliban was driven from power. Al Qaida and its leaders were driven from Afghanistan. We witnessed satisfying results, including a return of human rights which had been brutally repressed under Taliban rule. These were welcome accomplishments and results.
But after these initial successes, something went astray. American planners took their eye off the ball in Afghanistan, the invasion of Iraq being a major distraction, and in the blink of an eye, a major Taliban resurgence ensued.
After those initial victories, we might have gathered up our military assets and departed as victors. However, we did not. For one thing, Osama bin Laden was still alive. We now have another window of opportunity to leave. We should be more convinced than ever, particularly after the Quran burning episode accompanied by killings of innocent Americans, and the mass killings of innocent Afghan civilians.
Furthermore, the Taliban is an embedded political and cultural reality in Afghanistan that is generally devoid of institutional systems required for governing, and our future is not as bright in Afghanistan as our past achievements have been. Based on these perceptions, it is time for NATO forces to ramp down and return home. The marginal benefits of returning home now exceed those of remaining.