Here’s Gen. Daniel Woodward’s assessment of the situation in Afghanistan, as articulated in a piece at RealClearWorld:
The need to safeguard our interests in the region is without dispute, and Central Command undoubtedly has stacks of studies that outline the special operations, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and training assets required to do just that.
This American military footprint will remain in Afghanistan for years, but the present force of 14,000 conventional soldiers, trainers, and advisers should be reduced now. It should be pared to a level consistent with America’s core counterterrorism objective in Afghanistan: ensuring transnational terrorist groups are unable to use the country to launch an attack on the American people. This will allow the country to reach equilibrium, even as we focus on our most fundamental national interest — protection of the homeland.
The key phrase in that passage is “America’s core counterterrorism objective in Afghanistan”. Since 2003 we’ve been pursuing a strategy of counterinsurgency there. We should have been pursuing counterterrorism. Whether any president will have the courage to pursue the right course and whether it can be preserved without mission creep remains to be seen.