Twelve U.S. soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan this year. Since the war began in 2001, 2,417 U.S. troops have died there.
So why is America still in Afghanistan? Because the terror groups operating there would have the unfettered ability to again thrive if the U.S. were to withdraw the last of its troops. That answer won't mollify critics of U.S. policy in Afghanistan during three presidencies. But remember, each of those presidents came to understand the terrible risks a U.S. pullout would create.
We say this acknowledging that there is no end in sight to the longest-running war in U.S. history. Taliban insurgents continue to expand their reach, particularly in the south. Their ambushes and suicide bomb attacks have decimated the ranks of the Afghan military and police.
The Islamic State has staked out a presence in the country.
And al-Qaida, which had all but disappeared from the battlefield, is back on the scene.
It all points to a bleak outlook. But that outlook would quickly grow bleaker if the U.S. withdrew from the country its remaining contingent of about 14,000 troops.
The Afghan government, led by President Ashraf Ghani, is too inept, corrupt and fractured to have any realistic chance of defeating the Taliban on its own.
And if Kabul fell?
The prospect of Afghanistan becoming a rogue state would be all too real. What's now a largely dysfunctional state again would function as an ideal training ground for terrorists bent on launching attacks on the U.S., Europe and beyond.
It's tempting, after 17 years of chaos and carnage in Afghanistan, to pull up stakes and withdraw completely. The war costs American taxpayers $45 billion annually, and the toll inflicted on American soldiers becomes harder to justify with each passing year. But an even higher price lies in allowing terror groups to transform Afghanistan, once again, into a long-range danger to America.