By Doug Bandow

Published 12/28/09

With al-Qaeda dispersed, Afghanistan doesnít matter much to America. The country is a human tragedy, of course. But so are North Korea, Burma, Congo,Eritrea, Zimbabwe, Yemen, and Somalia. Rather than allow the Afghan mission to slide into nation-building, the Obama administration should begin withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan.

Afghanistan originally looked like the good war. The U.S. ousted the Taliban, which had hosted Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. Orchestrating the Talibanís removal simultaneously weakened the terrorists who struck America and punished the regime which gave them sanctuary.

Consolidating power in a reasonably democratic government in Kabul was never going to be easy, but the Bush administration tossed away any chance of doing so by prematurely shifting military units to Iraq for its quixotic crusade for democracy in Mesopotamia. The Obama administration now is attempting the geopolitical equivalent of shutting the barn doors after the horses have fled. The situation today is a mess. The Karzai government is illegitimate, corrupt, and incompetent. Afghan security forces are of dubious quality and efficacy.

Drug production permeates the primitive economy. Taliban forces and attacks are increasing. Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, admits that Afghanistan is "deteriorating."

Into this mess the president is sending an additional 34,000 American troops, plus whatever number Americaís European allies deign to send (which may well be different from the number they promise to send).