This paper investigates the way in which a particular national programme has interacted with authority structures at the local level in Afghanistan. Understanding such interactions is important because relationships between the state and Afghanistan’s ‘micro-societies’ influence the political stability of the country as a whole. Extending development assistance to the rural population of Afghanistan is difficult due to remote and harsh geography, violent conflict and the complexity of the social terrain. For donors and the Afghan government, a key challenge is to design and implement large-scale development programmes capable of operating effectively across a diversity of local public authority contexts. The experience of the National Solidarity Programme (NSP) and its successor, the Citizen’s Charter Afghanistan Project (CCAP) is one of mixed outcomes, and this note discusses possible ways of improving them.