President Obama’s announced plan for accelerated troop reductions in Afghanistan puts at risk the hard-earned battlefield gains made by the coalition forces over the last 10 months, but he rightly highlighted significant progress in training Afghan security forces:

“Afghan security forces have grown by over 100,000 troops, and in some provinces and municipalities we’ve already begun to transition responsibility for security to the Afghan people. In the face of violence and intimidation, Afghans are fighting and dying for their country, establishing local police forces…”

Progress in preparing Afghan security forces for eventual transition of responsibility is impressive, and the NATO training mission headed by General William Caldwell deserves much praise. However, Afghan security forces are still a long way from being able to maintain security on their own. The transition from U.S.-led to Afghan-led security operations must be driven by conditions on the ground, not the U.S. domestic political calendar. A hasty departure—before the necessary steps are taken to create a sustainable, functioning Afghan security force—risks unraveling all the hard work put into training these forces.

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