"Insurgent activities are increasing in almost every district, and insecurity is increasing day by day," said Tahira Mojadedi, a lawmaker from Kapisa. "French forces did much more before the incident that left four soldiers dead. Since then, they are reluctant, not taking an active part in operations."
In Chicago, Karzai will have the chance to play to what was for many years a personal strength: the ability to forge a warm rapport with Western interlocutors. Amid his outbursts of public pique, the affable persona that led the Americans to tap him as the country's leader a decade ago often goes forgotten.
In recent months, there has been a tacit agreement to avoid points of past discord. The Obama administration, which had drawn an incendiary reaction from Karzai when it scolded him publicly for corruption in his government, has drastically scaled back such overt criticism, even though the Afghans have made almost no visible progress in tackling graft, bribery and cronyism.
Despite a conciliatory veneer as the Chicago summit nears, Karzai is not letting the West off the hook completely. He hasn't been shy about offering frequent reminders that Afghanistan must make long-term accommodations with neighbors such as Iran, Pakistan and China, all of whose interests may diverge sharply from those of the United States and its NATO partners.
In Chicago, a running theme will be that the foreign military presence might ultimately matter less than long-term support to prevent Afghanistan from descending into chaos and becoming a haven for militant groups.
For that, there is history's grim lesson: Afghanistan's Soviet-backed government, led by President Najibullah, did not collapse when Russian troops withdrew in 1989; it collapsed several years later, when the Soviet Union had disintegrated and the flow of aid dried up.
And Karzai needs no reminder of how that saga ended, with Najibullah tortured, beaten and shot by the Taliban, his battered corpse strung up for all to see, not far from the presidential palace.