as I see it. For perspective, I was in Afghanistan from March '04 to '05. For the first six months, I was an Infantry Recon Platoon Leader and for the last six months I was the Battalion S5 (civil military affairs). In the latter capacity, I had the chance to deal more with the economic and policy side of warfare. I also had the chance to listen to the "smartest guys in the room" from our government and the UN try and figure out the way forward in Afghanistan (and not make a lot of headway). At the end of my tour, I was under the impression that we had exceeded our shelf life in Afghanistan. I also believed that the following three problems (none of which are military oriented) are the major barriers to any long term stability in Afghanistan, regardless of how many troops we put there or who is running the show. No matter who the President is, these problems are inherent to our situation on the ground in Afghanistan. I don't think I ever hear people reference these things, so I'll include them for your consideration: 1.) There is no economy in Afghanistan. At it's heart, the nation is a poor, agrarian nation with absolutely no GNP/GDP. That creates a major (IMO, the largest) problem, the massive federal government we have set up has absolutely no tax base to support itself. That means if we pull out, the government will collapse under its own weight. That means, like it or not, we are going to have to subsidize Afghanistan for, well, ever. Compare that to Iraq, which has oil and has *magically* stabilized after we figured out how the revenue sharing with the oil was going to work. 2.) We are trying to impose a federalist system on a nation of tribes. Since it's inception, Afghanistan has been tribal and governed by tribal codes and laws. It's not "Sharia Law". It's Pastunwali. Hard core Islamic belief systems take a seat in the back next to the Afghan's peculiar code for "everything" (at least the Pashtun majoirity). We are trying to get a group of people who have been tribal since the inception of the nation to accept a strong central government. I am only surprised that we've had any sort of success. 3.) The life expectancy in Afghanistan is 44. The Soviets invaded in '78. We are approaching a nation of people who have never known peace. They have no better alternative to war, strife, and unrest to base their perspective on. In short, they are pessimistic because they don't believe there is anything better for them. For those that bemoan the "nation building" aspect of Afghanistan, pull your head out. Modern warfare essentially mandates nation building. We were wed to "nation building" the second we set foot in Afghanistan and Iraq. That is something we should consider before going into a nation, not ten years after the fact.