In periods of relative calm, rulers would try spurts of modernization. One article from Afghanistan in 1932 reads: "Afghan Girls Like Attending School."
These moments of spring in Kabul have frosted over because of overly ambitious governments that failed to find a balance among competing groups. Today, even supporters of Mr. Karzai's government argue that the current regime is a repeat of history. They liken the 2001 Bonn Conference in Germany, which created the Karzai government after the fall of the Taliban, to the Treaty of Paris after World War I: a victor's peace that disenfranchised the losers so much that future conflict was all but inevitable.
But negotiating a more inclusive government now, one that brings in elements of the Taliban and other insurgents, remains an epic challenge of diplomacy. "It's like designing a mission to Mars – the complexity of it is really quite great," said Stephen Biddle with the Council on Foreign Relations in an interview last year.
Yet, in the weeks before bin Laden’s death, several moves occurred that could fortify the diplomatic track in Afghanistan even as the war enters a period that is expected to be particularly violent: