A short piece in the London Times encapsulates the political dilemma currently facing the U.S. in Afghanistan:
There are few better illustrations of the weakness of the Afghan state than the situation developing in one of its most secure regions. General Atta Mohammad, a powerful Tajik warlord and Governor of Balkh province, has successfully kept the peace — and the Taleban at bay — across a swath of the north of the country since 2004.
However, critics say that he has carved out a mini-state openly defying Kabul, sparking increasingly determined efforts in the capital to unseat him.
By operating under the delusion that a centralized government based in Kabul can rule Afghanistan, the U.S. blinds itself to the successes that can be achieved if we reconcile our strategy to Afghan society. Atta Mohammad may be a warlord who is carving out his own personal fiefdom, but he has kept the peace and kept out the Taliban; in Afghanistan, the U.S. should ask for nothing more. If U.S. strategy embraces feudalism the success of Balkh province could be replicated all across the country.