In his Dec. 1 op-ed, “ How the U.S. can win in Afghanistan ,” former ambassador Ronald E. Neumann made a ruinous mistake in assessing the situation in that country — he thought like an American.

In particular, he assumed a centralized solution to the conflict. He wrote, “The United States relied on building Afghan forces to handle the remaining violence.” But political power in Afghanistan is geographically dispersed, and the central government has always been weak. Providing Kabul with an effective army and security forces, steps that seem perfectly sensible to Americans, are a revolutionary threat to local power. In the name of improving security, we blindly threaten the centuries-old balance between Kabul and the provinces.

We live with national institutions such as the Supreme Court, Social Security, federal taxes and a common language that, as a practical matter, do not exist in Afghanistan. It is the feared, and revolutionary, imposition of central authority, rather than cross-border operations from Pakistan, that fuels the Afghan insurgency.

Our culture misleads us.

Clark Rumrill, Reston

The writer was second secretary at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul from 1966 to 1969.