Counterinsurgency expert David Kilcullen, one of General Patraeus's advisors in Iraq during the "surge" (and someone who believed that the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was a huge mistake), reportedly remarked that just because you invade a country stupidly doesn't mean you have to leave it stupidly (see Tom Rick's book, "The Gamble," page 29).
We would be smart to heed his advice when it comes to Afghanistan. Regardless of how we may feel about the wisdom or morality of the Afghan war, we should probably not be in too much of a hurry to leave. If we leave too soon, if we leave before we've secured the safety of most Afghans, we may leave them worse off than they were before.
I think it is telling that Greg Mortenson, who has built over 150 schools (mostly for women) in Afghanistan and Pakistan and author of the books, "Three Cups of Tea," and "Stone into Schools" (wonderful books by the way) has a similar take on the situation. In a recent interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, Mortenson remarked that we need to put more money into empowering Afghans rather than building bombs, but while he's aware that Americans are weary of staying too long in Afghanistan, he also believes that it is "premature to begin pulling troops." If we leave too soon, he fears that the Taliban will return and reverse the gains that have been made in women's education, human rights and health care. I share Mortenson's fear and hope that the Obama Adminstration gives General Patraeus enough time and troops so that we can leave Afghanistan "smartly."