Student Reaction At the end of Professor Long’s presentation, I had the distinct feeling that I had just been told an inconvenient truth that I really did not want hear: that the United States needs to leave some troops in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future. Professor Long consistently returned to the same conclusion while assessing the positive and negative consequences of U.S. and NATO troop withdrawal in 2014: the situation in Afghanistan will not change dramatically. It will take years to observe the real consequences of significant foreign troop withdrawal, and even longer to observe the impact of the U.S. training of Afghan security forces. His timeline for U.S. seemed much less fanciful than other supporters of the United States’ military role in Afghanistan. The “if we only stay two more years everything will better” argument always seems a bit ridiculous. The tempting response to such arguments is “Really? Have you seen Afghanistan?” Austin Long’s response to that would be something like “Yes I have and that’s why I think just two more years is wholly inadequate.” The focal point of 2014, the reason why it is receiving so much attention and hype, will be the elections in April and the governmental transition of power. Replacing Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan’s first democratically elected president, will be a challenge – one that will affect the stability of the country and the entire region. Those trained by the U.S. do not necessarily have the political patronage, or legitimacy, to become effective rulers and many potential leaders have left Afghanistan to seek asylum in Europe. The political position of the next president will also dictate who will be appointed to lower level regional offices. A more progressive Tajik president would be more inclined to appoint the children of current and former party officials who have been trained in the west. This generation’s new perspective, however, may not be as welcomed under a more conservative, former mujahideen fighter such as Abdul Rassoul Sayyaf. The next president’s actions and beliefs will also dictate Taliban and al-Qaeda activity in the coming years. Deterring these groups’ reemergence will also largely depend on continued momentum, strength and effectiveness of Afghan military forces. As Americans, we are so accustomed to U.S. intervention in various forms around the world, that continued involvement and intervention in Afghanistan is assumed and would go unquestioned. As long as evidence of continued involvement is not publically displayed regularly, the U.S. is generally apathetic to on-the-ground or peripheral activity. The U.S. is more concerned with the media coverage resulting from the failure of Afghanistan’s constitutional democracy that they helped put in place. Because democracy, liberalism and nation building are such central themes in American foreign policy rhetoric, more attention will be focused on the government and less on the continued security efforts in the country. After all, U.S. troops are still stationed on the Korean peninsula, in parts of Germany and on bases built in the Gulf in 1991 during the war. No matter what the Bilateral Security Agreement outlines, or whether or not one is achieved, the United States’ role as world policeman will continue in Afghanistan and/or the surrounding region. Overall, I am still deeply skeptical of continued U.S. involvement and its consequences, but Dr. Long was quite persuasive in laying out the perhaps even more negative consequences of the United States not being involved.