Don't expect any timelines to be set for a U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. That was perhaps the clearest message among the several points that Gen. David Petraeus, head of the Army's Central Command, made in a visit Monday to The Inquirer Editorial Board.

Asked to describe the coalition force's mission, if it is no longer simply to apprehend Osama bin Laden, Petraeus said that the goal is to make Afghanistan unsuitable as a terrorist haven. OK, but that not only means mopping up al-Qaeda in that country and in neighboring Pakistan, it also means providing a stable way of life for Afghans.

To get to that point, you need an uncorrupt government that can provide safety, public services, schools, health care. And you need to end the Afghan economy's dependency on the opium trade that's used to bankroll the narco-terrorists who now call the shots in the countryside. Doing all of that is going to take a number of years, whether anyone is willing to say that or not.