The United States has ended its 20-year-long presence in Afghanistan. The last US soldier has left the country on a military plane, ending a hasty and humiliating exit for Washington and its allies. The mission that started with the Taliban out of government had ended with the militant group firmly in control and stronger than ever before.
There was a celebratory fire across Kabul as the Taliban took control of the airport, the site of a mass evacuations and deadly attack last week. America’s longest war took the lives of 2,500 US troops and an estimated 240,000 Afghans, costing a whopping $2 trillion. The world is now watching if the Taliban will form a more moderate and inclusive government in the months ahead.
Thousands of Afghans have already left the country, fearing Taliban reprisals, but several others have been left behind. The US has also ended its diplomatic presence in Afghanistan and will now operate from Qatar. US President Biden had defended his decision to stick to the withdrawal deadline, saying the Taliban should allow safe passage to those wanting to leave Afghanistan.
The next step in Afghanistan would be the formation of the new government. It is imperative that the world should stay engaged with Afghanistan for the sake of peace and stability. The WHO has opened an air bridge to provide medical and health supplies which could soon run out. The country is now on the brink of a humanitarian crisis and could suffer from chronic food shortages in the coming months.
The Afghan crisis has raised questions about the capability of Western democracies to build lasting institutions overseas, and their willingness to do so. The conflict in Afghanistan may not be over as rival groups including the Taliban and ISIS-K could clash with each other. Others such as TTP can also use the Afghan soil for terrorism against Pakistan despite the Taliban’s assurances.
Pakistan and neighbouring countries have a greater role than before in the Afghan crisis. Pakistan has agreed to host Afghan evacuees temporarily and even allowed transit to US troops. It could soon face a mass exodus and despite denials would be compelled to grant refuge. The global community should not abandon Afghans. While the lessons from the Afghan debacle will be gradually learned, it is imperative that the immediate needs of the Afghans are immediately addressed.