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It's time to declare victory in Afghanistan and come home -- before we have to shoot our way out

The Koran riots have pulled back the veil on the war in Afghanistan. No matter what our political leaders say, we’re losing ground fast, and nothing short of another ten years of American blood and treasure will change that. 

It’s time to declare victory and come home, before we have to shoot our way out.

Our military men and women have succeeded in everything we’ve asked of them. It’s our political leaders – from both parties – who have failed us.

Our original mission in Afghanistan in 2001 was to defeat and destroy Al Qaeda after the September 11 attacks. We accomplished that in a mere three months, and by December 2001 Usama bin Laden and the ragtag remnants of Al Qaeda escaped over the Tora Bora Mountains into Pakistan

Al Qaeda was gone, yet we stayed on in Afghanistan to engage in the fruitless task of nation building. Our new mission was to create a strong and modern Afghan democracy, which would bar the doors should Al Qaeda attempt to return.

For a decade our Afghan mission has grown ever larger, our generosity in the country has spread to everything from healthcare to education to infrastructure to business development. 

We created the Karzai government, which turned out to be corrupt and incompetent but excelled at one thing – playing us along.

While we focused on Afghanistan, Al Qaeda regenerated across the border in Pakistan. We didn’t pursue the terrorist network there, relying instead on the Pakistanis to defeat them in the ungoverned tribal areas. 

Pakistan played us along, too, most tellingly in efforts to "get Bin Laden." 

Pakistan went into the "finding Bin Laden business." And we paid them handsomely for it. 

But they knew if they ever "found" Bin Laden, they were out of business. They knew if we found Bin Laden, they were out of business. 

They knew if Bin Laden died, they were out of business. So they kept Bin Laden alive in a safe house in a Pakistani military district so they could continue to get over $2 billion a year in US aid. 

The veil was pulled back on Pakistan’s duplicity when SEAL Team Six raided the compound and killed Bin Laden.

Throughout the last 11 years the United States military succeeded at every task our political leaders threw at them. 

- They defeated Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. 

- When our political leaders turned their attention away to Iraq, our military diverted resources to fight that war. 

- When our new political leaders decided Iraq was the bad war and Afghanistan the good war, our military redirected resources back to Afghanistan. 

Our military men and women have performed nobly, selflessly, and effectively. But in the end, that would not be enough to win.

Afghanistan is like a three-legged stool, and all three legs need to be strong for it to stand. 

First, it needs a military leg to reverse the Taliban gains and win on the battlefield in Afghanistan. 

Second, it needs a diplomatic leg to get Pakistan to destroy the safe havens where Al Qaeda and the Taliban could regroup and regenerate. 

Finally, it needs a political leg -- a competent Afghan government capable of uniting the country and keeping the security our forces had won for them.

In the end, our military did win on the battlefield, but those victories could not be sustained as long as the Pakistanis refuse to destroy the safe havens, and as long as the Karzai government is corrupt and incompetent. The victories we won on the battlefields of Afghanistan have been lost in the capitols of Kabul and Islamabad.

And despite what they say publicly, our political leaders have concluded Afghanistan is a lost cause. 

That’s why President Obama is keen to leave, but not until 2013. He knows the country is likely to descend into a multi- party civil war the minute we leave, and he doesn’t want to carry that loss on his balance sheet as he heads into the general election campaign.

The great tragedy of Afghanistan is the leaders who have failed us -- the politicians in Washington, and Kabul and Islamabad. 

They stand in stark contrast to our men and women in uniform. Our military have performed nobly, selflessly, and effectively and these brave men and women deserved far better leaders than they have had.

Kathleen Troia "K.T." McFarland is a Fox News National Security Analyst and host of FoxNews.com's DefCon 3. She is a Distinguished Adviser to the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and served in national security posts in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations. She wrote Secretary of Defense Weinberger’s November 1984 "Principles of War Speech" which laid out the Weinberger Doctrine. Be sure to watch "K.T." every Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET on FoxNews.com's "DefCon3"-- already one of the Web's most watched national security programs.

Kathleen Troia "K.T." McFarland is a Fox News National Security Analyst and host of FoxNews.com's "DefCon 3." She served in national security posts in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations. She was an aide to Dr. Henry Kissinger at the White House, and in 1984 Ms. McFarland wrote Secretary of Defense Weinberger's groundbreaking  "Principles of War " speech.  She received the Defense Department's highest civilian award for her work in the Reagan administration.