That's the argument. That's the case that the Obama Administration makes for the war in Afghanistan now, the case made to me this week by diplomat Richard Holbrooke, but shared across the administration. And the case is that we have to be in Afghanistan because it's critical to our national interests. They say the war was mishandled badly for years by the Bush Administration, and that's why we're dealing with the Taliban resurgence and that's why we had almost nothing to show for our years there when Obama took office.
But they say despite how bad it is, we can't just leave.
We can't leave, because we can make progress there, and failing to make that progress would be a disaster: the Afghan government collapses, the Taliban returns. And yes, that's awful for the Afghan people, but for us that would also mean a victory and sanctuary again for Al Qaeda, for the terrorists who attacked us nine years ago, and who would love to do so again.
To avert that, the argument goes, we need to do everything we can to ensure that there is an Afghan government: A big, competent national police force that isn't corrupt, that serves and protects its people. A well-trained, well-equipped army that can defend the government against attempts to overthrow it. Basic services, national ministries, governors and municipal offices, all linked to the central government in Kabul.