Juan Cole has some very good thoughts about Afghanistan.
When was the last time that an al-Qaeda operative was captured in Afghanistan by US forces? Is that really what US troops are doing there, looking for al-Qaeda? Wouldn't we hear more about it if they were having successes in that regard? I mean, what is reported in the press is that they are fighting with "Taliban". But I'm not so sure these Pushtun rural guerrillas are even properly speaking Taliban (which means 'seminary student.') The original Taliban had mostly been displaced as refugees into Pakistan. These 'neo-Taliban' don't seem mostly to have that background. A lot of them seem to be just disgruntled Pushtun villagers in places like Uruzgan.
There has now been a rise of suicide bombings in Afghanistan, on a scale never before seen. One killed 24 people in a bazaar at Deh Rawood on Sunday. Robert Pape has demonstrated that suicide bombings typically are carried out by people who think their country is under foreign military occupation. If the US keeps sending more troops, will that really calm things down? [...]
If the Afghanistan gambit is sincere, I don't think it is good geostrategy. Afghanistan is far more unwinnable even than Iraq. If playing it up is politics, then it is dangerous politics. Presidents can become captive of their own record and end up having to commit to things because they made strong representations about them to the public [...]
Afghan tribes are fractious. They feud. Their territory is vast and rugged, and they know it like the back of their hands. Afghans are Jeffersonians in the sense that they want a light touch from the central government, and heavy handedness drives them into rebellion. Stand up Karzai's army and air force and give him some billions to bribe the tribal chiefs, and let him apply carrot and stick himself. We need to get out of there. "Al-Qaeda" was always Bin Laden's hype. He wanted to get us on the ground there so that the Mujahideen could bleed us the way they did the Soviets. It is a trap.
The problem, as Cole very expertly notes, is that there's no government in any meaningful sense over there, just a loose confederation of tribes and clans. There is probably a more pernicious force willing to subjugate them, but if the clans are willing to resist it will be unsuccessful. As it is the clans appear only willing to resist Western forces.