Two good op-ed pieces on Afghanistan in today's New York Times. Too bad no one in America gives a damn anymore:
Eager for Afghan forces to help fight the Taliban, the United States brought ... warlords back from exile after 9/11. What began as a relationship of convenience was cemented in a brotherhood of arms, as United States troops fraternized with the exotic fighters they had bivouacked with. Because they had reaped weapons and cash in the bargain, the warlords were able to impose themselves as provincial governors, despite being reviled by the Afghan people, as every conversation I've had and study I've done demonstrates.
...In late May, President Karzai summoned to Kabul the 12 governors who control Afghanistan's strategic borders. For the previous fortnight, Afghan and international officials say, he had been preparing to dismiss the most egregious offenders: four or five governors who are running their provinces like personal fiefs, who withhold vast customs revenue from the central government, who truck with meddlesome foreign governments, who oppress their people, who turn a blind eye to extremist activities while trumpeting their anti-Taliban bona fides. United States officials, saying they were taken aback by the scope of the Afghan government's plan, discouraged him. The plan was scrapped, and the Afghan government made do with an agreement in which the recalcitrant governors promised to hand over customs revenue owed the central government.
--"Afghanistan's Future, Lost in the Shuffle" by Sarah Chayes, field director of Afghans for Civil Society
One morning [in Kabul] I met a policeman named Nasser directing traffic near the Haji Yaghoub Mosque, and I asked him how his life had changed since the fall of the Taliban. "Well, I am allowed to shave now," he said, shrugging. He told me he was supposed to make $40 a month, but the government hadn't paid him in three months. And he needed to feed a family of 12: his wife and four children, and his dead brother's two wives and five children. As he spoke, a crowd of burqa-clad women and barefoot children with rotten teeth were begging for money in front of the mosque....
Security is the most urgent problem. It is tenuous at best outside Kabul. Taliban forces are regrouping. Disarmament is a distant dream. Afghanistan last year was once again the world's leading opium producer. One child in four still dies before the age of 5. Major roads remain unbuilt. Women are still harassed and threatened. The provincial warlords battle one another while scoffing at the central government....
--"Desperation in Kabul" by Khaled Hosseini, an Afghani who now lives in California