Afghanistan is making progress but has a long way to go. As the poorest and least educated country in Eurasia (where over half the planet's population lives) Afghanistan can blame its condition on ignorance (lowest literacy rate), poverty (lowest income levels), and corruption (rated among the highest in the world). Throw in radical Islam (imported from Saudi Arabia in the 1980s during the war against invading Russians) and tribal leaders resisting change (effective government threatens their power) and you get the Taliban and drug gangs. What is also often ignored is that 90 percent of the terrorist violence occurs in about 20 percent of Afghanistan (areas of the south and east). In the south the violence is centered on drug (opium and heroin) producing areas in Helmand and Kandahar provinces, while in the east it's areas near the Pakistan border and the terrorist sanctuaries in Pakistan (mainly North Waziristan). Across the southern Pakistani border there is another sanctuary in Quetta, where the Afghan Taliban leadership has been staying since early 2002. Pakistan refuses to shut down these sanctuaries.
Despite the corruption and continued violence in parts of the country, relative peace in most of Afghanistan has led to a decade of economic growth. Literacy rates have gone up in most of the country. Even in the Taliban heartland (southern Helmand and Kandahar provinces) the terrorists are having increasing difficulty recruiting suicide bombers and even gunmen. Thus more children and women are being persuaded or coerced into carrying out suicide attacks. This just makes the Taliban even more unpopular, and despised, by most Afghans.
In the east (Khost) a suicide bomber on a motorcycle drove into a market where the explosion killed 21, including three foreign troops.
October 1, 2012: In Kabul a suicide bomber on a motorcycle drove into a checkpoint, killing 14, including two Americans. The ban on joint U.S.-Afghan operations was quietly lifted on the 27th.
Foreign troop deaths fell by 50 percent from August to September and are down 27 percent this year compared to the same period last year. While attacks by men in Afghan police or army uniforms accounted for 20 percent of foreign troop casualties this year (more than double the rate last year), all other types of attacks continued to be less effective.
September 29, 2012: The Afghan military has issued a pamphlet to most of its troops (those who can read) describing cultural differences with Westerners (when to sneeze, how to shower, shake hands, and handle shoes, plus many others) and explain that these odd customs are not intentional efforts to insult Afghans. Islamic terror groups have long exploited this ignorance to recruit and stir up popular support. This is why the Taliban is hostile to education and cell phones (especially the ones that can access the Internet, and most can). Any Afghan who becomes literate and gets a cell phone soon discovers there is a huge world out there and it is different. Americans new to Afghanistan are astounded at the ignorance most Afghans still have of the outside world. This causes all sorts of problems but is an environment Islamic terrorists thrive in.
The head of the Afghan anti-corruption agency announced that he is reluctant to send cases to the Attorney General because few cases are prosecuted and witnesses are often attacked instead. The problem with an immensely corrupt culture like Afghanistan is that it's too easy to bribe senior government officials, including the Attorney General. The scope of the corruption problem is huge and it means that many good works (like foreign aid building schools, roads, and clinics) are wasted because officials steal the money later donated to maintain these facilities. Schools and clinics lie abandoned and roads fall apart from lack of maintenance. All this is self-defeating, but the lack of civic responsibility is so widespread that few in government will resist the temptation to steal all they can. The corruption also stifles foreign investment. China recently announced it was shutting down work on one of the world's largest copper mines (a $3 billion project in Logar province). The problem is corruption and feuding officials and warlords using violence to intimidate each other and the Chinese. Afghan officials are trying to persuade the Chinese to reconsider but the Chinese have been in Afghanistan for several years and have not seen any serious progress in dealing with the corruption.
September 28, 2012: In the east (Logar province) a senior Haqqani Group leader (Ghairat) and a bodyguard were killed by a smart bomb attack. Ghairat was known to be responsible for organizing many major terrorist attacks in eastern Afghanistan.
At the annual UN meeting of heads-of-state in New York, leaders of Central Asian states (especially Kyrgyzstan) and Russia made a big deal out of the opium and heroin coming out of Afghanistan. These drugs cause major addiction and crime problems in neighboring countries and there is fear that the West is going to abandon Afghanistan in two years and simply try to ignore the problem (something the neighbors cannot do).
September 24, 2012: Afghan and NATO forces launched at least nine operations in Nangarhar, Baghlan, Kandahar, Zabul, Wardak, Ghazni, Ghor, Helmand, and Nimroz provinces which resulted in 28 dead Taliban and another 54 captured. Large quantities of weapons and drugs were also captured.
September 23, 2012: The government is moving more troops and police to guard the eastern border and attempt to stop movement of Pakistani Taliban and other Islamic terrorists. This is meant to persuade the Pakistanis to stop firing rockets and artillery at Afghan villages (where it is believed anti-government Pakistani Islamic terrorists are hiding out). Pakistan denies that it is firing into Afghanistan but months of such attacks, involving thousands of rockets and shells, has left ample evidence of what is happening. Pakistan dismisses this evidence as fabricated.
September 22, 2012: Afghanistan has banned the importation of Pakistani newspapers because of the blatant pro-Taliban attitudes adopted by much of the Pakistani media.
September 21, 2012: The last of the 33,000 additional American troops sent to Afghanistan last year have left. That leaves 68,000 American troops in Afghanistan, plus 40,000 from other NATO allies, and over 300,000 Afghan police and soldiers.