Afghanistan became the spotlight of almost every news outlet as the world looked in bewilderment at the disorderly American withdrawal. Despite all its political and military might, the United States largely left empty-handed, as tangible results are hard to find on the ground in Afghanistan. The war that, after over $2 trillion spent during 20 years of occupation, many believed “endless” has indeed come to a stop, leaving a disastrous predicament poised to worsen in the near future.
The swift fall of the Afghan government and the Taliban’s shocking return to power signals looming catastrophe, chaos, instability, and a humanitarian crisis with implications far beyond the country’s borders. As soon as President Biden announced that U.S. troops would fully withdraw from Afghanistan before the twentieth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, critics lamented the lack of a clear mechanism to transfer responsibility for security to President Ghani and his cabinet.
Contrary to expectations, Ghani and most of his cabinet turned and fled Afghanistan as the Taliban rapidly swept into the nation’s capital of Kabul. The regional implications of these events are difficult to understate. The Taliban’s assurance to Afghanistan’s neighbors that law and order will prevail is already strained by the airport bombing claimed by ISIS-K and clashes in the Panjshir valley. With the return of the insurgency, long presumed suppressed, to power, the fate of the Afghan population (62 percent of whom are under the age of 25) is now more uncertain than ever.