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The United States withdrew from Afghanistan after 20 years. For several reasons, the U.S. and its allies can still see some positives coming out of the current situation. While Western powers lost Afghanistan to either their own hubris or a much better motivated Taliban, in the long-term they could see some return on their 20-year investment. For the Taliban however, now the real fight begins, and it’s not all that certain whether they can win this war. The Taliban must deal with a failing economy, ensuing civil unrest, a worsening humanitarian crisis, a political logjam, and international isolation. Their proficiency with Ak-47’s was never in doubt, their ability to govern a country of 39 million people is being questioned.

However, the inception of the Emirate of Afghanistan poses a myriad of challenges and opportunities for regional states as well as for the United States. Afghanistan has the potential of becoming a haven for terrorists once more that can haunt the stability and security of its ally, Pakistan. This situation could benefit India as it could manipulate some factions such as ISIS-K to destabilize the northwestern region of Pakistan.

With Afghanistan in chaos, China has stepped in to counter the U.S. and increase its stakes. China has heavily invested in Afghanistan in the past and it continues to do so. China sees Afghanistan as an opportunity to extend its China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and its financial influence. For that purpose, peace in Afghanistan is a prerequisite, and China has provided a helping hand in bringing peace to Afghanistan. With that said, the U.S. considers the growing stakes of the Chinese in Afghanistan as a threat to its regional hegemony and an unstable Afghanistan would do its part to block the investments and influence of China. It can be inferred that an unstable Afghanistan provides more opportunities for the U.S. than a stable one where it can counter China without doing anything and at the same time keep Pakistan in check.

Along those same lines, Russia is taking a keen interest in the release of Afghanistan’s frozen assets that are linked with the security and stability of its neighborhood as asserted by Vladimir Putin in a recent session of the annual Valdai Discussion Club in Russia. The arrival of Daesh to Afghanistan before the departure of the U.S. and the recent bombings in various parts of the country to destabilize it validate the statement that Afghanistan is being pushed further towards chaos, leaving the ground open for other states to exploit.

Amid all these new avenues for various states, Afghans have suffered the most whether they were governed by Hamid Karzai and subsequent administrations or now the Taliban. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has predicted that half of Afghanistan’s population will be facing acute food shortages in the winter. With citizens striving for basic necessities, the new Taliban regime needs to pay heed to more stable options for the survival of its nation.

Afghanistan’s fortunes rely heavily on the Taliban. Either they want chaos and suffering or they take a moderate stance for the sake of Afghans. Dollars currently being held by institutions in the West will not be released otherwise. Moreover, the Taliban’s radical concepts regarding basic human rights will haunt them as the international community is more concerned about these fundamental issues in Afghanistan. There is a dire need to move forward by taking Afghanistan and all the stakeholders of the region on the same platform for a flourishing Afghanistan.

Ali Haider is currently a Customs Inspector with Pakistan Customs. Ali has a keen interest in global affairs.