A recent US report stated that al-Qaeda can no longer operate from Afghan bases. Yippee. Honestly, I don’t think they’ve been operating from Afghan bases since 2002. They’re all in Pakistan and points beyond. This is known as a balloon effect: eradication of something somewhere only drives it to another location, just like the assault on coca growers in Colombia drove production into Ecuador and Bolivia. No al-Qaeda in Afghanistan is a hollow victory when at the same time the Taliban has a permanent presence in 80% of the country, with permanent presence defined as an area where one or more attacks on US forces, its allies, or Afghan government personnel happen per week.
Just for the record, at the time of this writing in October 2009, the US has less than 50,000 troops in Afghanistan. At the height of its occupation, Russia deployed over 100,000. Russia couldn’t hold all of Afghanistan with 100,000. They had strategies at first, but after 1985 they decided bombing everything in sight was the only way to do things, and even that they knew to be an exercise in futility. We knew Afghanistan would bring war without end to the USSR and undo its empire: why, then did we plunge into that nation, knowing full well what it does to empires?