The problem of Afghanistan moved closer to solution for the United States, given last week's elections, no matter what their eventual results.
The outcome of the presidential and provincial contests is still inconclusive. President Hamid Karzai claims victory and so does his chief opponent, Abdullah Abdullah. Official results will not be announced for another 10 days or so. To claim a first-round victory, a candidate must win more than 50 percent; if no one does, the top two finishers will face a run-off election.
Voter turnout was estimated at 40 to 50 percent in the parts of the country where voting occurred at all. The Taliban, thoroughly opposed to the elections, control at least one-third of the country. Fraud, ballot-box stuffing and other abuses were reported. Women especially were intimidated from voting and many men voted proxy for their wives.
Nonetheless, the election took place and a presidential victor may emerge. For the United States, a definitive outcome could help draw eight years of involvement in Afghanistan to an end.
Casualties among the 68,000 U.S. troops there are rising, as are the financial costs. The war against the Taliban is being waged primarily by U.S. forces, with little participation by Afghans.
Strong sentiment exists, even among U.S. elements in the country, that the relationship between the Afghan government and the Taliban -- whether it be conciliation or conflict -- should be determined by Afghans, not by U.S. Marines and NATO forces.
At home, even though President Barack Obama is calling Afghanistan "a war of necessity," there is a risk that its growing unpopularity will torpedo his presidency. The comparison of Mr. Obama and the Afghanistan war with President Lyndon B. Johnson and the Vietnam War is becoming less fanciful by the day. Unfortunately, the Afghanistan conflict is also metastasizing in Pakistan and other neighboring countries with fragile governments.
The completed Afghan elections present a strong case for Mr. Obama to bring to a close U.S. military involvement in a harsh, unforgiving environment, before America is forced out, as were the British and the Russians. In other words, let the United States leave now while it is ahead.