In the year since President Obama announced his troop build-up in Afghanistan, reported events show that the mirror-image issues of governance and corruption have worsened, and that their improvement continues to pose "a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma" for the United States.
A very recent example: the lead story in Saturday's New York Times reports that the Iranian ambassador to Afghanistan, to drive a wedge between the Afghan government and the U.S., has been giving millions of dollars to President Karzai's chief of staff. Karzai and his allies have used this money to bribe officials, tribal leaders, and even some Taliban commanders in exchange for fealty.
Addressing governance and corruption in a failed state like Afghanistan would be enormously challenging if they were "just" issues of development, but the "development" of Afghanistan, of course, takes place in the midst of a fierce civil war and intense regional rivalries and interference under what most experts consider a wholly unrealistic deadline (progress by next summer).
Yet, despite the obvious difficulties of the war, reducing corruption, enhancing Afghan governance, and securing support of the country's ethnically and tribally diverse people have been absolutely central to the Obama administration's ultimate objective of degrading the Taliban and keeping Al Qaeda from returning to Afghanistan. Under current counter-insurgency doctrine propounded by General Petraeus and adopted by the Pentagon in its debates with President Obama, rampant corruption and poor governance are seen as some of the most important factors--on par with Pakistani meddling--dividing the diverse Afghan people and creating Afghan instability.