WASHINGTON -- First the good news. The war in Afghanistan is being won. As our Fox News team saw on our most recent trip through the length and breadth of the country, the Taliban and their al-Qaida allies are being defeated at nearly every turn. Though military operations and police actions are being conducted at their highest pace since the war began a decade ago, coalition, Afghan and civilian casualties continue to decline -- even in the midst of "fighting season." According to U.S. and allied military officers with whom we spoke, Taliban fighters are defecting in greater numbers than ever before. Though our political leaders in Washington won't use the word, "victory" is within reach.
Now the bad news. The speed and scale of the pullout, withdrawal, redeployment, drawdown -- or whatever the Obama administration wants to call it -- place all the hard-won gains at risk. Instead of a time frame based on the situation on the ground, the president wants all 33,000 American "surge" troops home by next summer. Everyone -- friend and enemy -- knows the timing of and the number in the pullout are being driven by next year's U.S. presidential election.
This week, the Pentagon announced that the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment -- nearly 1,000 strong -- will be the first combat unit "withdrawn without replacement" from once-bloody Helmand province. When they return to their base in Twentynine Palms, Calif., the Marines will grieve for their fallen and be greeted by loved ones with open arms. Meanwhile, our coalition partners are following our lead and quietly drawing down their own force levels.
White House and Pentagon officials tell us "not to worry," because the U.S. troops being withdrawn are being "replaced" by 70,000 fresh Afghan police and military personnel. If they are as well-trained, equipped and ready to fight as the Afghan national security forces we saw on our trip, that's great. What isn't so obvious is how many of our coalition partners will be catching flights home -- and how fast.
On July 7, a day after the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment was told it would not be replaced, Canada ended all combat operations in Afghanistan. Our closest neighbor and ally had more than 3,000 combat troops in-country since 2002 -- most of them in hot, hyper-violent Kandahar province. More than 150 of them were killed in action or died of injuries. Instead of combat units, Canada will provide 950 police and military mentors to train Afghan troops. Other NATO allies are following suit.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.
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