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Three for all


The international community should step up efforts to prevent spillover effects from the upheaval in Afghanistan in the wake of irresponsibly hasty US withdrawal

Two decades ago, the United States invaded Afghanistan in retaliation for the Sept 11 terrorist attacks. Although it was to maintain its hegemony, its invasion had some sense of legitimacy as it was also an attempt to crack down on international terrorism. The 20-year war, however, has come to a chaotic end with the hasty and ill-planned withdrawal of US forces in the name of downsizing its counterterrorism battle lines. The situation in Afghanistan, therefore, requires cool-headed observation, coordination and joint efforts from all parties concerned as the country will witness major upheavals in domestic politics and internal turbulence.

With the hasty, disgraceful and ill-planned withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, the US has broken its promises made to the Afghan people and left its allies, which have been jointly shouldering responsibilities on the Afghan issue, in a very disadvantageous situation. Its European allies that have joined with the US in its anti-terrorism fight for a long time, and invested hefty amounts of funds every year in reconstruction assistance to Afghanistan, would never have foreseen this outcome. Germany, for example, has given $500 million in reconstruction aid to Afghanistan, which has accounted for nothing in the wake of the US military withdrawal.

The US withdrew from the war-torn country immediately after informing its allies, leaving behind no measures to cope with the aftermath. Its withdrawal is so abrupt that it did not even have any plans in place to get its Afghan allies out of the country. In years to come, European nations will expect an outpouring of refugees as the Afghan upheaval escalates and as the threat from extremism on the southern border becomes more severe. The US, busy sweeping the snow from its own doorstep, shows no intention to worry about the frost on its allies' roofs. By abandoning its allies and partners so precipitately, the US has further eroded its credibility, especially in the eyes of its European allies and India, whose long-term efforts in Afghanistan have gone up in smoke.

The turbulence and upheaval in Afghanistan will continue for a certain period to come, and will lead to another crisis in the country if terrorism, a core issue for the past two decades, is not properly dealt with. The international community and countries in the region, the US included, should properly deal with the following three issues to avoid the worst-case scenario arising in Afghanistan.

To start with, the international community, especially the countries concerned, should jointly ensure the Afghan people's right to survival and development. The rising power of the Taliban in Afghanistan has become the biggest variable of the future Afghan situation. Countries including the US, Russia and Iran have changed their policy toward the Afghan Taliban. With the latest developments in the Afghan situation, the international community faces the reality of how to get along with the Afghan Taliban. More importantly, a broadly based, inclusive political framework that fits the national conditions and wins public support through dialogue and consultation must be established as soon as possible, so as to turn the war-stricken country into a normal one that's neutral, peaceful and safe.

Second, the international community and parties concerned should jointly prevent the turbulence in Afghanistan having spillover effects. Over the past few years, the war in Afghanistan has led to great instability in the security situation in the northern part of the country and neighboring Central Asian countries. Refugees, defeated soldiers and terrorists have been mixed up, greatly threatening the border security and domestic stability of such neighboring countries as Tajikistan and undermining the national security of Russia and European countries. Terrorist organizations such as the Pakistani Taliban return to Pakistan through Afghanistan's southern border to launch terrorist attacks, greatly threatening Pakistan's national security and increasing the security risks for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. Afghanistan's neighboring countries and the international community must attach greater significance to this problem, coordinate their positions, and jointly take actions to deal with it.

Third, the international community and countries concerned should jointly establish a new international mechanism for addressing the Afghan issue. The chaos of war in Afghanistan has persisted for nearly half a century, with the country suffering from wars inflicted by the Soviet Union and the US and later descending to a hotbed for international terrorism. Given the complexity of the Afghan issue, there's currently no best solution. The international community, particularly the countries concerned, should think about the possible worst-case scenarios, make concerted efforts to prevent terrorism and extremism from putting down roots in Afghanistan, properly guide and assist the postwar reconstruction of the country, and urge the US to shoulder its due responsibilities.

For quite some time in the foreseeable future, we can't be optimistic about the security situation in Afghanistan, with the three major difficulties of eradicating international terrorism, solving domestic turmoil and improving international cooperation. These three problems have long plagued the country and the international community faces the three major long-term tasks of helping the country end the violence, putting a stop to the domestic turbulence and strengthening and improving governance.

The author is vice-president at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.