Americans are not going to win the hearts and minds of the Afghan people, no matter how much of the blood of our best and bravest is spilled there. It is time to recognize that and, if anything, accelerate President Barack Obama's timetable for pulling U.S. troops out of Afghanistan.
Nearly 1,750 Americans have given their lives in the long war in Afghanistan. Many more have been wounded, many maimed for life.
Yet despite years of battling against al-Qaida and Taliban terrorists, what has been accomplished?
Much, in important ways. Al-Qaida was denied a safe haven in Afghanistan. Beyond any reasonable doubt, many of the organization's leaders, including Osama bin Laden, could not have been captured or killed otherwise.
Led by Americans, forces from a coalition of other nations forced the Taliban from power in Afghanistan. That ended years of what amounted to no more than barbaric brutality in the guise of religious enthusiasm.
Afghans were given a chance at political and religious freedom. Many Americans hoped they would seize it and make it a basis for new, freer lives.
Now, it is a question whether the people of Afghanistan have chosen to do that - or are content to allow themselves to be dominated by zealots and warlords.
Events during the past few weeks make it appear our hopes - and yes, those of some Afghans - are to be dashed.
In just a week, allegedly because of outrage that U.S. soldiers accidentally burned a few copies of the Koran, six American troops have been murdered by Afghans who were supposed to have been working with them. Afghan political and religious leaders make their hatred for Americans plain. Afghan judges spend their days listening to U.S. experts analyze how true justice can be provided - and their nights inciting terrorists to new levels of violence.
No, it does not appear we are winning enough hearts and minds to make up for the cost in both blood and treasure Americans have poured into Afghanistan.
Absent some believable evidence to the contrary, it is time to pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan as quickly as can be done while safeguarding them. And as they depart, Afghan leaders should be left with the simple message that if they ever allow terrorists to use their country again, retribution will be swift, severe - and next time, more realistic.