"Our 20-year military presence in Afghanistan has ended," said U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday, marking the departure of the last American troops in the country.
The Islamist Taliban will seek a new form of governance now that they have seized power, but many are concerned about the deteriorating public security. Afghanistan will become a serious threat to the rest of the world if it once again becomes a breeding ground for international terrorist organizations.
The global community must not abandon Afghanistan after the U.S. withdrawal. All nations must contribute to the country's stability.
In the wake of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. overthrew the Taliban regime that had harbored al-Qaida, the terrorist organization behind the tragedy. But Washington continued to deploy troops to Afghanistan -- a situation the U.S. public found increasingly difficult to accept.
Along with the U.S. troops, forces from other NATO countries, Australia and elsewhere were stationed in Afghanistan. However, massive international cooperation was not enough to stabilize the country. Other countries, including Japan, provided huge amounts of economic aid. The Taliban's return after 20 years is a heavy blow to morale.
The question now is whether the Taliban will rebuild and run the country. Afghanistan's finances have depended on international aid for years. With the new regime in charge, the aid has stopped and the assets of the previous government have been frozen. Civil servants have fled, and there are no signs that banks will reopen. Administrative and economic activity has ground to a halt.
Many Afghans fear and distrust the Taliban because of their previous time in power. State collapse is a real possibility if the regime rules as it did in the past. All countries must press the new leadership to act as a member of the international community. Continued economic aid should be used as leverage to ensure the safety of the Afghan people and guarantee the rights of women and minorities.
Foreign nationals and Afghans who were unable to leave the country before the U.S. withdrawal are stuck there. Nations must guarantee the safety of the airport and ensure these people can get out. Support for refugees is also an urgent issue.
China and Central Asian countries that border Afghanistan should watch for increased activity by terrorist organizations. This is also an issue for Russia, which is home to many Muslims.
China has been in contact with the Taliban. Together with Pakistan, which has supported the new regime in Kabul, Beijing appears to be trying to increase its influence over the new leadership.
The U.S., Europe, China and Russia must work together to ensure stability in Afghanistan, rather than turning it into a playing piece in a new Great Game.