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The Obama administration appears determined to vacate Afghanistan as fast as possible. If the latest leaks are to be believed, officials are willing to leave as few as 6,000 U.S. troops behind after 2014, concentrated at the Bagram air base and a few other installations around Kabul. The mind boggles at what this would mean in military terms.

Consider one simple fact: Kandahar, the city where the Taliban movement started, is 500 km southwest of Kabul. Imagine that intelligence analysts have identified a “high-value target” — say, a terrorist facilitator with links to both al-Qaida and the Taliban — in Kandahar. How would the U.S. military capture or kill him without a secure base in Kandahar?

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