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Here’s a report on a working draft of a Kabul-Washington deal on the U.S. Afghan mission after 2014:

Taken as a whole, the document describes a basic U.S.-Afghan exchange. Afghanistan would allow Washington to operate military bases to train Afghan forces and conduct counter-terrorism operations against al-Qaeda after the current mission ends in 2014. For that foothold in this volatile mountain region wedged between Pakistan and Iran, the United States would agree to sustain and equip Afghanistan’s large security force, which the government in Kabul currently cannot afford. The deal, according to the text, would take effect on Jan. 1, 2015 and “shall remain in force until the end of 2024 and beyond.” It could be terminated by either Washington or Kabul with two years advance written notice.

Many, on the right, in the center, and especially on the left will call this a new form of imperialism. I don’t think so, although it certainly is empire-like.

I suppose many will quote George Washington’s Farewell Address against it too. Understandable, but when such quotation gets particularly dogmatic about the “no entangling alliances” maxim, it misreads what Washington and (his “co-author”) Hamilton were broadly for.

My initial opinion is that this agreement will be better than nearly-full abandonment, which is pretty much the only other option ever since Obama said in 2009 we’d be leaving in a few years.  Such abandonment would likely put the Taliban or other Islamists back in control of all or much of the nation, with fatal consequences to every Afghan who has stood with us there. No, we should not invite a massive influx of asylum immigrants from Afghanistan. Nor should we just let those people be slaughtered if we are not willing to take them in. Nations are moral actors, and God will judge us if we simply leave them to perish.

With the words “2024 and beyond,” all those Afghans who are keeping their heads low now for fear of a Taliban return have reason to recalculate.

But as no-one’s been discussing Afghanistan in the media for a long time, like many I haven’t been putting much thought into the issue or doing much reading on it. The previous two paragraphs contain more of a gut opinion than a judgment.

So what do you think?

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