5,565 Days: Why Declare When U.S. Troops Will Leave Afghanistan?

TIME

The timing of the launch of the war in Afghanistan was a well-kept secret until just before it began on Oct. 7, 2001. That preserved the precious element of surprise, and gave U.S. troops every possible edge once the war began.

But we now know when it will end: Dec. 31, 2016, 5,565 days after it began and more than 30 months from now. That gives U.S. troops—and the enemy—a calendar for action.

Time is an element on the battlefield, as vital—perhaps moreso—than troop numbers or ground covered. But President Barack Obama, backed by the U.S. public, has concluded that by the end of 2016—after more than 15 years of the nation’s longest war—it will be time to furl the colors and come home.

Why make such a declaration so early? Is the President that confident that whatever progress has been made will stick? That it’s time for Afghans to…

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