The Taliban have spread their reach so broadly in Afghanistan that President Hamid Karzai's government could fall after U.S. forces leave the country, according to a new report by the International Crisis Group, a nonprofit think tank that studies conflict zones. "If Karzai wants his government to survive past 2014," says the report's lead author, Candace Rondeaux, at Foreign Policy, he'll have to stamp out favoritism and cronyism, and show that the law applies to everyone equally. Is the Afghan government really headed for disaster?

Karzai can't hold on: If 150,000 American troops couldn't defeat the insurgency once and for all, says Bette Dam at CNN, Hamid Karzai doesn't stand a chance. His government has been "digging its own grave with enormous corruption and patronage," which has only encouraged more rivals to take up arms. No wonder many Afghans think Karzai will be "the first person to flee when the troops withdraw."
"Afghans say Hamid Karzai is the first person to flee when U.S. troops withdraw"

But keeping U.S. troops there won't help either: Our plan to leave behind a free and stable democracy in Afghanistan was "a grand delusion" all along, says As this week's suicide attack on the heavily protected Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul demonstrated, the Taliban remain "as defiant as ever." Even after President Obama withdraws our 33,000 "surge" troops by mid-2012, we'll still have 70,000 soldiers in Afghanistan. That's a waste given how unlikely it is that anything we do "will produce a lasting, positive outcome in Afghanistan."
"No-win situation"

Maybe we can accomplish more with less: It's not like we're leaving Karzai to the wolves, says Corky Siemaszko at the New York Daily News. In fact, "President Obama's new strategy for fighting Afghan insurgents scored a quick success when one of the men behind the suicide attack on Kabul's Intercontinental Hotel was rubbed out by a pinpoint airstrike." With "a 'surgical' approach to dealing with insurgents and terrorist threats like al Qaeda" — using drones and commandos — we might be able to do more for Karzai with fewer troops.
"Man behind Kabul hotel ambush quickly killed by pinpoint airstrike hours after attack"