I’m going to recommend a couple of things that y’all should read, ay-sap. One you can download for free; the other you need to pay for. One you can digest pretty quickly; the other is academic and requires a little effort.
The first one is the new Oxfam Afghan poll (sort of), titled The Cost of War. You can download it here. It is important because it represents a good cross-section of rarely heard Afghan public opinion. The paper notes, among other things, that Afghans don’t see the presence of foreign troops as one of the major causes of the current war:
Seven in ten (70%) individuals saw unemployment and poverty as a major cause of the conflict, while almost half (48%) pointed to the corruption and ineffectiveness of the Afghan government. Other factors that individuals identified as major drivers of the conflict were: the Taliban (36%); interference by other countries (25%); Al Qaeda (18%); the presence of international forces (18%); lack of support from the international community (17%); warlords (15%); and criminal groups (14%).
My second recommendation is Decoding the New Taliban, a collection of scholarly articles edited by Antonio Giustozzi. It’s not this blog’s policy to link to commercial outlets, but I’m sure you’ll find a place to buy it online in no time. When you get it, start from Thomas Ruttig’s piece on Haqqani — a real eye-opener even for us who have met the old man.