I've been going on and on about the Afghan government of late, and though you folks know I care little for our counter-narcotics efforts, drugs do matter when they have an effect on the legitimacy of the government. This is from a great article on Marshal Fahim in the New York Times:
In hindsight, several current and former administration officials say they have come to believe the decision to turn a blind eye to the warlords and drug traffickers who took advantage of the power vacuum in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks was one of the fundamental strategic mistakes of the Afghan war. It sent a signal to the Afghan people that the most corrupt warlords had the backing of the United States, that the Karzai government had no real power or credibility and that the drug economy was the path to power in the country.
This is certainly along the lines of what Sarah Chayes would say. And she knows a lot more about Afghanistan than I do. For more on how the government's weakness and/or corruption affects NATO/ISAF counterinsurgency efforts, check out Ghaith Abdul-Ahad's reports from the Guardian. Keep in mind that Ghaith is reporting from a pocket of Taliban-controlled territory in northern Afghanistan. You can only imagine, then, what southern and eastern Afghanistan are like. And there's bad news enough for everyone. For those who think these guys are just going to go back to farming pomegranates if ISAF withdraws, here is what one Talib says:
After liberating Afghanistan inshallah, our forces will be ready to conquer the land beyond the river [the old name given by the Muslims to central Asia]. The jihad in central Asia, India and Pakistan should not just have a tight nationalist agenda.