There's an ending in sight to the war in Afghanistan.
President Barack Obama met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and they arrived at a conclusion that we can all be happy to hear -- security in Afghanistan will be turned over to the authorities in that nation by the end of 2014.
It's past time for that to happen.
While we don't have a great deal of optimism that Afghanistan will turn into anything close to a democracy, there also is no indication that our continued presence there will have any further positive effect. Already our service personnel are having to look over their shoulders at Afghans who pretend to be friends, then launch into deadly attacks. December 2014 is the target date for those troops to return to America.
It's unclear whether Afghanistan can maintain its current personnel level of more than 350,000 on duty and in training in the country's military and police forces, particularly since the Afghans are heavily dependent on foreign aid to pay the salaries of those personnel. Without a strong police and army presence, there's a strong possibility that the nation would fall into turmoil.
America, meanwhile, has 66,000 troops serving in Afghanistan now, and we've lost more than 2,000 Americans who have died there since the war started in 2001.
There is some question as to whether the U.S. will have personnel on hand in Afghanistan in a support role once the job of protecting the country, along with the responsibility for detention centers and detainees, is handed over to the Afghan government. Obama and Karzai did not reach an agreement upon the question of immunity for U.S. personnel who are assigned to Afghanistan after 2014.
U.S. commanders have recommended that 6,000-15,000 U.S. troops remain to advise Afghan forces and to prevent al-Qaida from re-establishing itself in the country. The Obama administration has placed the number closer to 3,000.
Without guarantee of immunity, the number should be zero. Lack of immunity is a deal-breaker for any U.S. troop and personnel presence. If U.S. citizens are subject to prosecution under Afghanistan law, Obama should deny any support help from our personnel. There is no reason to have any faith that our people would be treated fairly given Karzai's track record, and there is no reason to subject American citizens to that peril.
It appears that, starting by the spring, the U.S. military presence will dramatically scale back its already decreasing combat role, with U.S. troops no longer patrolling Afghan villages. Obama says the U.S. role will move to training, advising and assisting.
We have our doubts, but we hope Afghan forces are up to the challenge. It's time to bring our people home.