Can Your Friend's Enemy Be Your Friend?

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A Toyota pickup emerges from the gates of a mud-walled fort outside the Afghan city of Gardez, barrels down the road, and weaves through barricades bristling with grenade launchers and Soviet-era machine guns. The vehicle slams to a halt and an American named Charlie jumps out, his auburn beard and gold-framed Oakleys flashing in the sun. I ask him what he's doing in this rugged, dust-coated part of Afghanistan. He answers, "I work for the government."

The question is: Which government? In Gardez, the man officially in charge of the province of Paktia—Raz Mohammad Delili—is a poised Afghan...