This is the way I see it ...
1. Having cleared out al Qaeda from Afghanistan, we now want to ensure that the country does not again become a haven for international terrorism.
It certainly was about clearing out al Qaeda and that's what we did. But if we're worried about haven's for terrorism why aren't we across the border in Pakistan, in Indonesia, Algeria and Somalia? And surely since Afghanistan
produced the Taliban we don't want to be making another Afghanistan.
Perhaps the problem is America doesn't
plan to stay and so wants the quickest solution. When the British were fighting wars in that region and they drew up the Durrand line (Afghan-Pak border) they did so because that suited the security of British interests in India. Since the British planned to stay and rule as colonialists they were forced to think harder about the real relationships between the people there. In the end they chose to divide and rule the Pashtuns. In fact, the British managed to get Pashtuns to fight other Pashtuns, which is something the ISAF have so far failed to do because since the US isn't staying it just wants to get out as status quo ante as possible.
2. Our method has been to establish a sympathetic and pliant government to replace the Taleban which had been hosting al Qaeda.
On a tribal level to rope in the Durrani Pashtun into a multi-ethnic state with the Uzbeks and Tajiks against the Ghilzai Pashtun and their followers, some of whom are Durrani.
The Ghilzai / Taliban, and other non-Ghilzai tribes, are hosting al Qaeda because it is pashtunwali custom to honor guests and give them protection. Something which the Durrani Pashtun might be doing for the Taliban in Helmand. Pashtunwali is not like baathism... that can be subject to a process of de-pashtunwalification. It's a bottom up societal, not an elitist top down culture.
3. The Taleban have reacted by seeking to overthrow our preferred government, which is too weak and impoverished to resist the insurgency.
The Afghani government has no sense of unity because it is multi-ethnic, they all think along ethnic lines. They want a fair slice of the cake. It's never going to be strong and unified no matter what leader you have, unless it is completely dominated by one of the ethnic groups. That is how al Qaeda got a foothold in Afghanistan - after the Soviets withdraw they helped the Pashtun win the ethnic battle for control of the Afghan state.
4. We have had to intervene to bolster our preferred government, seeking to develop it so that it has the reach that extends over the whole of Afghanistan, with sufficient authority and capability to compete with and destroy Taleban concentrations which challenge its authority.
If it was a strong, unified government we shouldn't have to intervene. That it's not shows that we're wrong from the very first principles.
The Taliban cannot be divorced from the Pashtun group which comprises it. A war on the Taliban is a war on the Pashtun - that is, until, like the British did years ago, we get Pashtun fighting the Pashtun. Then we might reach an acceptable stalemate.
5. While doing this, since the government is too weak to do the job itself, we are impelled to fight the Taleban, to stop it deposing our preferred government.
Why can the Taliban do that? Because it's not just an Islamist vehicle, it's a Pashtun vehicle.
6. Since that government can, in the long-term, only survive with the popular support of the people, we are impelled to carry out measures to strengthen it and attempt to increase its popular appeal, in an attempt to convince the Afghani people that our preferred government is one they want as well.
Those people don't think of themselves as "Afghans". They think of themselves as their ethnicities. The "Afghan" is something they are not. It's a carpet, under which the real issues have been swept. Historically the term "Afghan" only ever applied to the Durrani Pashtun.
7. Those measures have had the effect of alienating the people and strengthening the Taleban, while our preferred government is, if anything, weaker than when it started.
Look at history there's never been a strong multi-ethnic Afghan government. That's the norm. Take away the stabilisers, the show goes off the road.
8. As a result, we are impelled to provide even more troops and to intensify the fight against the Taleban.
If you haven't a clue what's going on.
9. Repeat 6-8 for as long as it takes for the peoples and governments of the troop supplying countries to lose patience and pull out
10. The Teleban - possibly reinvented under a different name - take control of Afghanistan. Civil war breaks out and al Qaeda move back in.
I don't think the Taliban will require a new name unless it ever becomes truly unpopular with the Pashtuns.
Remember Al Qaeda helped the Taliban win control of Afghanistan. In the 1990s the Taliban united the Pashtuns in the Pashtun areas but when al Qaeda arrived they took control of much more of the north and al Qaeda assassinated the Tajik mujahidin commander Ahmed Shah Massood before 9/11 eliminating a popular figurehead of opposition to the Taliban.
If the ISAF set up camp in the non-Pashtun regions and allow the non-Taliban Pashtun to control the Pashtun region, the non-Pashtun regions will be secure and the Pashtun will start fighting each other, like they did for the British Empire but haven't yet done for the ISAF (virtually zero Pashtun units in the ANA).