If U.S. troop levels there remain unchanged, the above scenario is still quite possible -- except that it will come later, after the deaths of perhaps hundreds more of our sons and daughters.
And as President Obama continues his months-long pattern of indecision, he will likely have many more opportunities to salute the fallen as he did this week.
This is not to dismiss the president's dilemma. Political and cultural conditions in Afghanistan are infinitely less favorable than we faced even in bloody Iraq; from infrastructure to tribal loyalties to political corruption and incompetence, Afghanistan makes Iraq look like London at tea time.
But that does not eliminate the dire need to do something about it -- almost anything at this point.
The far-left wing of the Democratic Party from which Mr. Obama budded had, for years, lamented that Iraq was a "distraction" from the true war on terror, which they said was centered in Afghanistan. Why would they now balk at the opportunity to carry through on that strategy?
The paradox for the president is that an exit strategy most probably involves sending more troops, as his commanding general has repeatedly said.
Now, many months into his administration and weeks and weeks beyond which some observers believe a decision should have been made, the president is seeking a province-by-province study of Afghanistan's politics before deciding whether to shore up our troops there.
Such an approach would have been highly worthy eight or nine months ago. Now it just seems feckless and tardy.
This isn't about Mr. Obama personally. Indeed, we similarly urged President Bush to get on with winning the war in Iraq or to pull out ("Summer surge must get results, or we must get out," May 27, 2007).
Rather, this is about formulating a war strategy with a sense of urgency while our troops are in harm's way.
As Obama stews, our allies and the Afghans themselves have to wonder: Why should we commit to a U.S. war that the U.S. president won't even commit to?
"Do Something," a headline bluntly blares from the London Times Online . "Until he does so," the article concludes, "people will continue to die without knowing why. The President must show at least as much resolve as his British allies. It does not seem a lot to ask."
Former Vice President Dick Cheney says Obama is "dithering," adding that "signals of indecision out of Washington hurt our allies and embolden our adversaries."
"I sympathize with our president," says Sen. John McCain, a Vietnam War veteran and prisoner of war, "because sending men and women into harm's way is the most difficult decision that a commander in chief must make. However, Americans are already serving in harm's way in Afghanistan, and the sooner we can provide the reinforcements and resources they need, the safer and more successful they will be."
Says New York editorialist Robert A. George, "If President Obama doesn't make a decision soon on Afghanistan -- stay, go, stay with more troops or stay with less -- the paralysis of analysis will spark a brushfire of anger and frustration from all political corners."
Bloggers and Internet posters across the nation are demanding a decision, and soon. Washington Post blogger Doug Feaver writes, "One thing most of our Readers Who Comment do not want is another study of Afghanistan."
Writes one of Feaver's readers: "Will someone please tell Obama that he's not in a law school or graduate school seminar anymore. He is the President of the United States."