FP's AfPak channel explains their role:

It is true that warlords are not good state-building material because their power is based largely on coercion and their political legitimacy is weak. However, there is a common misunderstanding about Afghanistan: What has been going on since 2001 is not yet state-building anyway, just tentative state formation. Ultimately, marginalizing characters such as Dostum and Ismail Khan does not remove the need for dealing with the increasingly politically fluid military class.

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