Now, 2 1 / 2 months later, when he hears the word “withdrawal,” Nunez thinks of Barawala Kalay — what he came to see as a painful fight of uncertain value, hastily planned and quietly abandoned.

He and his friends keep their posed photos from a visit by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates crumpled in glove compartments and stuffed in desk drawers. When al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed, their celebration was muted. They were unfazed when Obama came to Fort Campbell in May to congratulate the troops, including the Navy SEALs who killed bin Laden, on a job well done…

Drawing on their personal experience, and often little else, some have come to vastly different conclusions about Obama’s announced withdrawal.

“We could win this thing if we flooded the country. Instead, we’re pulling out. Afghans want to know if we can provide them security. We’re basically telling them that we can’t,” said Staff Sgt. Jimmy Schumacher, 29, who fought in the Wotapur district of Konar.