The more I read about Afghanistan, the more frustrating it becomes. I am currently reading Bing West's book, the Wrong War, and it is very critical of the effort. Understandably so, as he was out and about with the patrols, seeing the costs for the war. For the lawn-mowing--going out and clearing and then coming back and having to clear again.
One of the biggest challenges has been one of the biggest lost opportunities. Karzai has a tremendous amount of power, as he appoints and can remove governors of provinces and leaders of districts. Most of his focus on selection has been, not too surprising, on fealty to Karzai rather than competence. So, American, British, Canadian and other military folks have had huge problems trying to get stuff done because the guy in charge of the area is not so interested in performance but in providing votes to Karzai and in enriching himself (few females in this process). If, on the other hand, Karzai had been interested in moving Afghanistan forward, he could have replaced the inept/incompetent/corrupt folks and supported the competent ones. That might have been a bit risky in the short term, but it might have produced some governance and some stability. Instead, his strategy just means he is more reliant on folks he is renting.
This means that the government is on shaky grounds and that it is very hard to get the local folks to buy in.
Having said that, I will write a short review of West's book soon, as I do find it overly critical about some stuff. To preview, he tends to assume that there are lots more choices all along the way. Not so sure about that. Still, pretty awesome to be a writer running out on patrols in Helmand and Kunar, some of the most dangerous places in Afghanistan.