The document proclaims Afghanistan an “Islamic Republic”, a nation in which “no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam”.

Is it a manifesto by the Taliban, a blueprint for the state to be established after victory over the Americans?

Not quite. Actually, it’s the current constitution of the regime for which we fight.

As the American conservative Andrew C. McCarthy noted rather unhappily back in 2006, the document begins with the words “in the name of God, the Merciful, the compassionate”, announces the legitimacy of “rightful jihad”, mandates a national anthem containing the cry “Allahu Akbar” and accepts death as an appropriate punishment for religious apostasy!

Here we are, in Year Eight of the Global War on Terror, with the rather surreal spectacle of enthusiasts for the Clash of Civilisations urging greater sacrifices on behalf of an Islamic republic.

And therein lies the problem with the case most commonly made for continuing the war: the pundits contrast the theocratic rule of the Taliban circa 2000 with an Afghan future that exists only in their imagination, neatly ignoring the real Afghanistan that the war has brought into being.

Take the oppression of women. We all remember the Taliban’s insistence on a vile form of gender apartheid, something that induced many liberals to support regime change. Consider, then, a recent assessment from Sonali Kolhatkar of the Afghan Women’s Mission and Mariam Rawi from the Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan: “Aside from a small number of women in Kabul, life for Afghan women since the fall of the Taliban has remained the same or become much worse … the US military may have removed the Taliban, but it installed warlords who are as anti-woman and as criminal as the Taliban. Misogynistic, patriarchal views are now embodied by the Afghan cabinet, they are expressed in the courts, and they are embodied by President Hamid Karzai.”

But note that caveat about improvements in Kabul. The key American clients in Afghanistan understand the importance of providing something for their backers to sell back home. So, yes, the Karzai government builds sufficient girls schools in Kabul to provide feel-good footage for the TV. But it also refuses to strike down laws permitting husbands to withhold financial support to a wife who refuses to “submit to her husband’s reasonable sexual enjoyment”.

The constitutions itself reflects this weird duality. It contains passages that seem entirely secular, even progressive; it stipulates, for instance, that Afghanistan “shall abide” by the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. So how does this work alongside the proclamation of Islamic primacy? Well, it all depends on the judiciary — and that judiciary is dominated by conservative clerics. It was they who declared the constitutional legitimacy of punishing the Christian convert Abdul Rahman by death.

But doesn’t the backwardness, cruelty and corruption of the Karzai regime only reinforce the need for more intervention rather than less?

Well, no, for the kind of war being necessarily corrodes human rights throughout the society. Consider the case of the warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum, who in 2001 killed hundreds — perhaps thousands — of prisoners by confining them in packing crates. The US not only impeded investigations into the incident, but there’s also now claims that Americans watched the massacre taking place.

You see, at the time, Dostum was on the payroll of the CIA. Cozying up to brutal warlords on the basis of military necessity was the policy then and it remains the policy still. So is it any wonder that, according to a recent report, some 80% of Afghan officials think that torture is actually legal?

There’s no longer any easy answers in Afghanistan. Withdrawal or not, the future is likely to be bloody.