The perils arise from one main source: the gross ethnic imbalance of the new government in Kabul. A crude power grab by a small clique of Tajik warlords from the North has marginalized nearly two thirds of the population. This was to have been fixed in Bonn, but it wasnít. Then it was to be corrected by the Loya Jirga, but the national assembly only made matters worse. Growing discontent among underrepresented Pashtuns and Hazaras threatens to wreck the fragile peace. Unless checked, it is bound to spread across the border to Pakistan, further destabilizing that nuclear power.
America must now rectify this situation. It must demand that Karzai install a balanced group of ministers as a condition for further military and development assistance. Failure to do so will lead the majority of Afghans to conclude that the U.S. has shifted from liberator to oppressor.
Besides destroying al Queda and the Taliban, America has wanted only "to drain the swamp" in which these movements had thrived. But a stable government in Kabul can achieve much more: namely, reopen the great trade routes connecting China, India, the Middle East and Europe. The revival of this ancient trade is the key to economic development throughout the region.
Once peace is established, the cost of reopening these ancient routes is not huge: rebuilding key bridges and tunnels, and setting up customs posts. Because it will not itself reap profit from this, the US is ideally positioned to organize such an international effort. And since this is not against anyone, there will be no losers---unless you count the warlords and fanatics who have fed off the prevailing hopelessness.