Afghanistan is not on the way to financing and providing for its own domestic state, the way that Germany and South Korea did. Those two states now have democratic elections that produce legitimate governments that can justly ask us to stay or leave.
After billions of dollars and years of training from NATO and the United States in particular, the Afghan National Army does not look like it is up to the task of defending the city from the Taliban. The Afghan state, riddled with corruption, is almost a sideshow. The capacity of that state to act is mostly provided by American-paid contractors. Holding up a government that has no real-world legitimacy in the region, or among the people it is supposed to govern, is practically the opposite of the high-flown ideals of Bush’s second inaugural. More important, it’s a project that does not interest the American people.
We do have an ongoing interest in Afghanistan: to see that it does not again become a safe haven for al-Qaeda and other terrorists. We have learned how to manage threats like these with drone air power in other theaters; we can do the same here. If the Taliban do succeed in overthrowing the current national government and establish their Islamic emirate in Afghanistan, the United States will still have diplomatic carrots to toss them to gain compliance and encourage better behavior. The stick comes in reminders of their 20-year exile from power and in the tens of thousands of casualties they suffered.