From Foreign Policy, words right out of my mouth:
Advocates of the current U.S. counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan deploy false choices and flawed assumptions to defend the status quo. Proponents of "staying the course" delegitimize the pursuit of better options for ending this deadly nine-year war by reducing the debate to a dubious binary: maintain a long-term counterinsurgency (COIN) campaign against the Taliban or leave Afghanistan after ignominiously "cutting and running." It is time to reframe this public discourse over the costly status quo and consider a new way forward.
Vice President Joe Biden, who is currently in Afghanistan and headed to Pakistan shortly, has argued, among others, that a policy of "Counterterrorism Plus" will more effectively secure genuine U.S. security objectives. He's right.
This approach calls for a much smaller deployment of forces that would focus upon al-Qaeda, including continued drone attacks on al-Qaeda and international militants both in Afghanistan and Pakistan's tribal areas. Proponents of such a plan argue for continuing the training mission of Afghan National Security Forces with a dedicated focus upon sustainability as well as continued and long-term initiatives to develop civilian capacity in the Afghan government. Obviously, this implies a sustained -- albeit a different and perhaps smaller -- U.S. presence in Afghanistan. This is not "cut and run."
As a proponent of some variant of a "Counterterrorism Plus" approach, I argue that the U.S. enemies are al-Qaeda and international terrorist groups -- not the largely parochial Afghan Taliban. Clearly, the United States must deny al-Qaeda access to Afghanistan. However, U.S. intelligence officials note that this goal largely has been accomplished: only 50 to 100 al-Qaeda operatives are presently in Afghanistan with many more in Pakistan. Yet Washington must work to ensure that Afghanistan does not again become an al-Qaeda sanctuary.