I like this piece by Rory Stewart so much that I will excerpt it extensively here, quoting remarks on the necessary Afghanistan strategy. This is an experience I personally appreciate very much, because I remember times from the past years when some of what he said did not make this much sense to me. Which I felt sorry about, given how much I liked his book about his largely lone walk through Afghanistan when I read it in 2007.
"Obama should not have requested more troops because doing so intensifies opposition to the war in the US and Europe and accelerates the pace of withdrawal demanded by political pressures at home."(...)"Now he needs to regain leverage over the Taliban by showing them that he is not about to abandon Afghanistan and that their best option is to negotiate. In short, he needs to follow his argument for a call strategy to its conclusion. The date of withdrawal should be recast as a time for reduction to a lighter, more sustainable, and more permanent presence. This is what the administration began to do in the days following the speech. As National Security Adviser General James Jones said, "That date is a 'ramp' rather than a cliff." And as Hillary Clinton said in her congressional testimony on December 3, their real aim should be to "develop a long-term sustainable relationship with Afghanistan and Pakistan so that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past, primarily our abandonment of that region." A more realistic, affordable, and therefore sustainable presence would not make Afghanistan stable or predictable. It would be merely a small if necessary part of an Afghan political strategy. The US and its allies would only moderate, influence, and fund a strategy shaped and led by Afghans themselves."(...)"I began by saying that "calling" in poker was childish and that grownups raise or fold. But there is another category of people who raise or fold: those who are anxious to leave the table. They go all in to exit, hoping to get lucky but if not then at least to finish. They do not do this on the basis of their cards or the pot. They do it because they lack the patience, the interest, the focus, or the confidence to pace themselves carefully through the long and exhausting hours. They no longer care enough about the game. Obama is a famously keen poker player. He should never be in a hurry to leave the table."
To be clear, I am not supportive of what he is saying merely because he wants continued, long-term involvement in, and commitment to, Afghanistan. I am supportive because the Max Leverage plan really doesn't make sense if it means the beginning of an "exit" after 18 months. Or even after 18+, given how cumbersome logistics make keeping to Obama's schedule hard at best.