Editor's note: Bing West is the author, most recently, of "The Wrong War: Grit, Strategy and the Way Out of Afghanistan." He served as an assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration and was a Marine infantry officer in Vietnam.
By Bing West, Special To CNN
President Obama's expected decision to reduce our troop level in Afghanistan from 100,000 to 90,000 by the end of 2011, and to 70,000 by the end of 2012, seems reasonable.
The more important issue - how to do it - is likely to be quietly decided this fall based on recommendations from a new military team consisting of the secretary of defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the United States Central Command, and the commander in Afghanistan.
Here are the factors that will matter.
First, the United States' goal is to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a terrorist sanctuary as the U.S. draws down. Unlike the situation in the 1990s, Pakistan won't give the Taliban the arms and vehicles for a conventional assault along major highways to seize Kabul. The Pakistanis are in no mood to antagonize the U.S., and our air power would devastate any such overt attack.