THERE ARE two ways to interpret this week’s news that the Obama administration is seriously weighing a total military withdrawal from Afghanistan next year. The so-called “zero option” is either a bluff to scare Afghan President Hamid Karzai into being more cooperative, or a trial balloon to see how the American public reacts. It’s unlikely that Obama is bluffing. But the zero option is one the United States should avoid.
Current plans in Afghanistan call for most of the 66,000 US troops there to depart in 2014, leaving behind fewer than 10,000 to train the Afghan army and conduct counterterrorism operations. But negotiations with Karzai over the terms under which those troops will operate have been excruciating. US officials now say they are considering pulling all troops out by the middle of next year.