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The following editorial first appeared in the Kansas City Star:
This is how a quagmire begins.
President Barack Obama is expected to add three years to the start date for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
What had been a wildly optimistic mid-2011 exit is becoming a vaguer target thought to be 2014. The plan will be released during a NATO conference in Portugal beginning in a week. Early indications are that the plan is based upon Afghan President Hamid Karzai's statements that 2014 would be when Afghan forces could take over their own security.
Karzai has shown himself to be far less trustworthy than hoped. It is true that U.S. and allied troops have been making advances since the implementation of Obama's surge. But it is also true that as soon as allied forces avert their gaze, Taliban and al-Qaeda sympathizers file back to previously secure areas. And while the Afghan military is growing at an admirable pace, it is impossible to know how many of these new soldiers have loyalties to other interests.
Recent months have brought a glut of disturbing news out of the "Graveyard of Empires," not all of it military in nature.
Revenge killing is alive and well. A growing number of Afghan women are committing suicide by fire as the easiest way out of their oppressive lives. In some provinces, the practice of taking young boys as sex slaves continues.
The American mission in Afghanistan has always been about eliminating the terrorist threat that hides within its borders. That is still a noble goal, but it cannot be muddied by notions of nation-building in a long-hostile land.