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Five reasons for hope in the Obama Afghanistan plan

One key is not setting a final exit date, which would only allow the Taliban to wait out the US.

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President Obama's new strategy for Afghanistan should once again give that disheartened country a "reason to hope," as he put it, in gaining a life free of violent extremists.

But it should also give Americans – also disheartened over this long war – a reason to hope for a life free of more Al Qaeda attacks.

The first and most sensible reason for optimism lies in Mr. Obama's decision to lay out a new exit strategy that does not also set down a final exit date.

His plan rests on a bold assumption that Afghans can start to better stand up to the Taliban – through a quadrupling of their Army, a campaign against corruption, and an uplifting of farmers – with the first handover of responsibility starting in 18 months.

But Obama also calculates that a steady hand-off of responsibility for security will not succeed if eternity-minded Islamic fighters know that US troops will withdraw before Afghan forces are ready. He has wisely tied a pullout to the Afghan forces meeting certain benchmarks for pulling themselves up by their bootstraps.

A second reason lies in the rapid surge of 30,000 more US troops by next summer – if complemented by an additional 5,000 troops from other NATO nations.

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