Numbers from the war in Afghanistan are staggering: Almost 16 years and three presidential administrations, more than 2,400 dead and more than 20,000 injured American servicemembers, costs in the hundreds of billions, if not trillions of dollars.
With no end in sight.
Still, the alternative to a continued U.S. presence in Afghanistan of leaving entirely would, we fear, result in complete, unacceptable disaster. The vacuum our country would leave behind would produce concession to the Taliban; topple the U.S.-supported government in Kabul; add fuel to the fire of factional conflict within Afghanistan; strengthen Afghanistan as a base of operations from which the nearly two dozen terror organizations who operate in and near the country, including ISIS, would seek to do harm to America and its allies; and destabilize an entire region of the world.
For a valuable, recent lesson about the perils of ending a mission before the mission is done, U.S. leaders need look no further than Iraq.
In large measure, we support the strategy for Afghanistan described by President Trump in a speech at Fort Myer, Virginia, on Monday night.
Of course, we have questions and concerns about Afghanistan (Among Americans of reason and good conscience, who does not?) and, yes, some of what we heard from Trump on Monday night we have heard before, but we continue to believe - at least for today - in a commitment to "victory."
What defines "victory" for the Trump administration? Secretary of State Rex Tillerson provided more clarity about the Trump blueprint on Tuesday.
"This entire effort is intended to put pressure on the Taliban, to have the Taliban understand you will not win a battlefield victory,” Tillerson said.
In other words, force the Taliban to the negotiating table.
To this end, we believe components of the Trump plan like more autonomy for battlefield commanders, no public announcement of battlefield strategies America's enemies can use against us, more pressure on Pakistan and no arbitrary timetables are important steps in the right direction.
Will the Trump administration, ultimately, succeed? We, of course, don't know the answer to that question, but we believe the stakes involved demand the U.S. expend the time and effort necessary to find out.