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Some heard a declaration of victory, others an admission of defeat. The many contradictions in President Obama's speech about Afghanistan Wednesday night were perhaps intended to obscure the bottom line: Tens of thousands of American troops will remain for at least three more years, some of them will be maimed or killed, and Obama offered no good reason why.

The only debate within the administration, it appears, was whether to bring home the troops far too slowly or not at all. Obama decided on the too-slowly option.

A year from now, we will have withdrawn the more than 30,000 "surge" troops Obama ordered into combat 18 months ago. But this means nearly 70,000 U.S. troops will remain in Afghanistan — about double the number deployed there when Obama took office. A "process of transition," in which Afghans take responsibility for the country's security while Americans come home, is supposed to be complete in 2014. But it sounds as if some sort of considerable force will remain in a "support" role.

In other words, there will be three more years of war followed by a long-term presence of unspecified magnitude.

Why? After a decade of war, what can we possibly gain by slogging ahead?

Reed more at the Washington Post.