The United States adopted the correct strategy for that war only in 2009, long after the conflict had become a chronic insurgency in which the Taliban fund their operations through the opium trade and exercise shadow governance over much of the country. Under these circumstances, the chances of a clear-cut victory are remote. Even achieving a compromise peace through co-option will be difficult. The United States must consider that it might have to withdraw without a satisfactory resolution to the insurgency. In that case, it will need to engage whoever governs Afghanistan to hold them accountable for terrorism launched from Afghan territory.
"The West came into Afghanistan under the mantra of freedom is on the march,” observed Masood Farviar, manager of an Afghan radio network in a December 2010 interview with National Public Radio, “and elections are the cure-all for all the problems, without realizing that the last thing Afghans needed at the time was elections. And the first thing Afghans needed at the time was security.”22 In its rush to get a government in place—any government—the United States got one with little legitimacy or real power. A popular joke in Afghanistan has it that Hamid Karzai is supposed to be president but is really no more than the mayor of Kabul, and even that only until it is dark."