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After months of deliberation, President Barack Obama is scheduled to reveal his strategy for the war in Afghanistan on Tuesday and, according to numerous news reports over the weekend, he will announce plans to send about 30,000 more troops to the front. That move -- close to the 40,000 troops requested by Gen. Stanley McChrystal -- may be the safe move politically by a Democrat worried about looking soft in the war on terror, but we fear that it will prove to be a mistake.

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Our actual goal for the conflict is to keep the United States safe from terrorism. Afghanistan became the central front in that effort because, under Taliban rule, it was a safe haven for al-Qaeda to train recruits and plan attacks. But the means of achieving that goal -- building a stable, secure Afghan state -- has been confused with the ends. Too many are now viewing success or failure in Afghanistan in terms of whether a flourishing Afghan civil society will remain when we leave, and that goal is looking more and more unattainable in the short term, and maybe ever. Perhaps if we had invested the billions that went to the war in Iraq into infrastructure, schools and economic development in Afghanistan, we'd be in a stronger position now, but no signs have emerged from Afghanistan in recent years -- and particularly in the last few months -- to suggest that any kind of functional state is likely to emerge there, no matter how many troops we send.

It's easy for leaders in Washington to fall back on the reasoning that we should send more troops because that's what General McChrystal requested. But when has a general in the field ever asked for fewer troops or to scale back his mission? And it's unclear whether the full complement of troops the general has requested -- or even double or triple what he wants -- would be enough to do the job he envisions. The porous border beteween Afghanistan and Pakistan makes it extremely difficult to permanently secure territory, and the massive corruption in the Karzai government makes it difficult for our forces to win over the populace.

Wiser counsel was that offered by Vice President Joe Biden, who has reportedly been advocating for a switch from a counter-insurgency strategy in Afghanistan to a more targeted anti-terrorism strategy. There's no doubt that shrinking our presence and ambitions in Afghanistan would come at a cost -- to the safety of the Afghan people, to the rights of women there -- but we simply cannot support an indefinite commitment with no realistic hope for a lasting success.

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