The Taliban won the war in Afghanistan. America and its allies lost. While the Taliban holds press conferences, thousands of desperate Afghans flank the runway at Hamid Karzai International Airport, desperate for a flight out of the country. Several fell hundreds of feet to their deaths trying to cling to a U.S. military aircraft during take-off.
The short-term imperatives of saving as many Afghans as possible will soon give way to an assessment of what the new Afghanistan means for international security. For countries in South Asia — particularly India — the withdrawal of U.S. forces, collapse of the Afghan military, and ascendance of the Taliban pose a massive counter-terrorism threat. Transnational groups like al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, as well as their affiliates and regional branches, will likely step up their activities from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. Anti-India terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed could eventually use the country as a base to launch attacks in Kashmir or other parts of India, as they did in the 1990s. While the Pakistani Taliban has lost much of its strength, it could reconstitute in Afghanistan and launch attacks into Pakistan. All of this will have immense implications for the future of jihadism in South Asia and beyond.