The roots of US involvement in Afghanistan stretch back to 2001, after the Taliban offered a haven for 9/11 attack mastermind Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda fighters. "They will hand over the terrorists, or they will share in their fate," then-President George W. Bush said, launching a war that would far outlast his presidency.
Cue 20 years of bloodshed, lost focus, costly offensives, troop surges and withdrawals, busted new plans and corruption that swallowed efforts to build Afghan democracy over three US presidencies. Bin Laden is dead -- but so are tens of thousands of Afghan civilians, and more than 3,500 US and allied troops. American voters have every right to ask: What is the point of staying any longer?
But hopes for withdrawal must be tempered. The first anticipated step toward peace -- an agreed "reduction of violence" -- is so shaky that US military top brass won't even call it a ceasefire. Taliban leaders may not be able to control commanders on the ground. Rushing to get US troops home could leave Kabul vulnerable to another Taliban takeover, and make the countr