And finally, even with the pullout of most foreign troops by the end of 2014, the West cannot simply abandon Afghanistan. It did so once before following the Red Army withdrawal in 1988, with horrendous consequences, notably a brutal civil war and the rise of the Taliban.
This time, the West, particularly the US, needs to persist with long-term development and investment. This does not mean wasting billions more dollars, but rather focusing on “smart” recovery initiatives. Given its natural resources plus exceptional cultural and eco-tourism potential, Afghanistan could have a good future.
For all this to happen, however, the West needs to be serious about wanting a credible peace. It also means acting in the interests of ordinary Afghans.
Edward Girardet is author of “Killing the Cranes: A Reporter’s Journey Through Three Decades of War in Afghanistan” and “Afghanistan: The Soviet War.” He is also editor of “The Essential Field Guide to Afghanistan and the Region.”