Karin von Hippel conducted a week-long, NATO-sponsored tour of Afghanistan with a small group of researchers from Europe and North America. The group visited Kabul, two provinces in the North (Mazar-e Sharif in Balkh and Kunduz), and two in the South (Kandahar and Uruzgan). They were briefed by dozens of military officials, a handful of international civilians, and a smaller number of Afghans (this was due to the trip overlapping with Eid-ul-Fitr as well as NATO concerns about security). In the report, she analyzes two key challenges for Afghans and their coalition partners. Given the large number of excellent studies addressing many of the important governance, security and development challenges for Afghanistan, this report focuses on two key areas that have only recently been in the spotlight. The first is whether and how to talk to the Taliban, and the second concerns the lines of authority for the U.S. and coalition forces. Resolving these two issues would make a fundamental contribution to the overall goal of the mission, which is to build a safe, secure and effective Afghan state.