If Karzai and his allies in Afghanistan want to achieve independence from the United States, they have to stop accepting money from Washington. It’s hard to turn down so much money, but they have to do it. That would change the relationship immediately, and tip the balance in Kabul’s favor. While Karzai and his lieutenants depend upon the U. S. dole, the current unhappy situation will last longer than anyone wishes. The dole delegitimates the Afghan government for ordinary Afghanis. It also makes the U. S. see Afghanistan as a client state, which it is. Take money out of the mix, and you have an independent state that can successfully stand up to its former patron.
On the other hand, take United States protection out of the picture, and Karzai could be assassinated tomorrow. When the Taliban caught hold of Mohammed Najibullah, leader of Afghanistan under the Soviets, they castrated him, tied him to the back of a truck and dragged him through the streets of Kabul, then hanged his body from a traffic light. Najibullah had been out of power for four years, but you can’t predict what will happen to you when you make people angry in a civil war. That’s why Karzai won’t throw the United States and its money out of his country. Washington knows he won’t do it. The current situation has lasted numerous years, and it won’t end soon unless Karzai and his colleagues decide to risk castration.