Michael O'Hanlon, writing in the Washington Post:
As Gen. John R. Allen steps down as commander of NATO forces in Kabul this weekend, several accomplishments merit mention. A man who was unfairly tainted by the Jill Kelley e-mail scandal deserves praise for a remarkable 19-month tenure that brought stability and steady progress to the mission in Afghanistan. Even more important, a fair reckoning of Allen’s tenure should give hope to those depressed about the war effort, as well as giving pause to those who would reduce our current forces too quickly out of frustration or fatalism. Consider:
●Afghan security forces are reaching their intended size. The path to achieving the targets was established under previous commanders, Gens. Stanley McChrystal and David Petraeus, as well as the three-star heads of the NATO training command in Kabul, William Caldwell and Daniel Bolger, but Allen has seen it through. That said, Afghan forces still lack some crucial enablers in air power and air transport, artillery and logistics that may require the United States to have a larger “bridging” force in 2015 and 2016 than some would now advocate. And it will be important not to prematurely cut that 350,000-strong Afghan forceby 100,000 or more troops, as some in Washington have favored.
●Afghan forces lead most operations. When Allen arrived in the summer of 2011, these forces led perhaps a third of all missions — generally the easier ones, in the safer places. Today, they lead 85 percent of all operationsand have primary responsibility for security in about three-fourths of the country. Their casualty figures prove their willingness to sacrifice, with about 2,000 losing their lives annually. Those casualty numbers also indicate, unfortunately, that the enemy remains resilient. But the enemy is not winning.