Foreign Affairs has a recent article by George Gavrilis arguing for a "Tajikistan" solution to Afghanistan. Tajikistan's bloody post-Soviet civil war gradually wound down and, with the modest support of the international community, the country has now stabilized into a corrupt but peaceful autocracy, with the narco-trade being an important component of the economy. The key to acheiving something similar in Afghanistan, suggests Gavrilis, is a willingness to scale down expectations, turn a blind eye to non-democratic elements, and recognize the importance of basic order as the first goal. Development and democracy can come later.
This thought-provoking article misses one crucial disanalogy: the Soviets failed in Afghanistan, whereas they succeeded in Tajikistan over several decades. That is, Tajikistan had a centralized state structure, a largely secular population, and somewhat of a modernist ethic, notwithstanding its poverty. Afghanistan is a long, long way behind. Even if the parties could brought to the table and conclude an agreement, its likely to be more than just a couple decades before any Afghan government could exert the effective control of Rahmonov. Order, alas, is a precondition to development.