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Originally published Wednesday, March 16, 2011 at 3:58 PM

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End the Afghan war, bring our troops home

The American public and the top U.S. general in Afghanistan agree our troops should start coming home. Heed the advice, Mr. President.

LEAVE Afghanistan sooner than later. Heed the advice, Mr. President, from two important sources of counsel: the U.S. public and a top military adviser.

America's pessimism about the war in Afghanistan and Gen. David Petraeus' optimistic assessment of military and civilian conditions end up in the same place, headed toward the exit.

Petraeus' appearance before the Senate Armed Service Committee Tuesday was his first public review of the war since he assumed command in June 2010. He told a receptive panel that U.S. forces could begin to leave this summer.

His testimony coincided with release of a Washington Post-ABC News poll that found 64 percent of Americans saying the war is not worth fighting. Nearly 80 percent said the U.S. should withdraw a substantial number of troops this July, a benchmark set by the president. The same poll found only 39 percent think he will actually do it.

The U.S. has been in Afghanistan since 2001, and it has been fighting itself out of a hole since 2005. American and NATO forces were losing ground to resurgent Taliban forces, a lack of civilian support and confidence, and a corrupt central government.

Military gains have come with renewed focus on training Afghan forces and patient work to build civilian trust and improve local security and economic conditions. The time is ripe to leave, and put those Afghan forces in charge.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is the exasperating symbol of all that has stayed the same. He sits atop a shell of a government. Last fall he disrupted the work of Afghanistan's Major Crimes Task Force and Sensitive Investigative Unit when they sniffed too close to the top.

Karzai was recently calling for international troops to end their operations after NATO bombing killed nine children. Lethal mistakes undermine the bravest efforts by outside forces to give Afghans a secure future.

The time is long overdue for the U.S. to depart. Obama sent 30,000 troops to Afghanistan after taking office. Bring them and the other 70,000 home as well. The U.S. can declare the war over.

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