Earlier this summer President Obama announced plans to withdraw 33,000 troops -- about a third of U.S. forces -- from Afghanistan over the next year. The president then indicated all U.S. troops will be out of Afghanistan by 2014.
At the time we made it clear we would have liked to have seen the president impose a far more aggressive timetable for getting Americans out of Afghanistan. Still, this step was progress.
But over the summer the luster of Obama's announcement faded.
August was the deadliest months for U.S. troops in the 10-year war in Afghanistan. Sixty-seven American soldiers lost their lives. The only month with more U.S. deaths was July 2010 when 65 Americans died.
The surge in deaths is a stark reminder that the war in Afghanistan is real and it is harsh. Every day U.S. troops are in Afghanistan they are at risk.
It's easy for Americans to forget about the war in Afghanistan (as well as Iraq) because there is rarely anything going on that draws our attention.
U.S. troops are essentially trying to keep the Taliban at bay and hold the country together until the Afghanistan people are in a position to take control. We are treading water -- albeit dangerous water.
The nation's sagging economy has caused Americans to worry more about our jobs and 401(k)s than those troops.
The country and its leaders must refocus on Afghanistan and do what is necessary to bring the troops home.
Whether U.S. soldiers are on the ground in Afghanistan for two more years, three more years or even 10 more years, the result will be about the same when the troops are gone.
The Afghan people are going to be tested by the Taliban or some other group. And whether they are able to maintain control of their country is ultimately up to them.
We understand the president has to consider many factors in making the decision on when to get out of Afghanistan -- from the perspective of military strategy to politics (2012 is an election year) -- but Obama can establish a sense of urgency. He must establish a sense of urgency. Setting a target date for withdrawal more than three years out is simply too squishy.
The U.S. must be aggressively pushing the Afghan government and its people to take control of their country.