otorbaev6_WAKIL KOHSARAFP via Getty Images_afghanistantaliban Wakil Kohsar/AFP via Getty Images

If Afghanistan Falls

With US and NATO troops on their way out and the Taliban making rapid territorial gains, Russia, China, and Central Asian governments are increasingly worried about what a destabilized Afghanistan will mean for the wider region. While all hope is not lost, the outlook is becoming bleaker by the day.

BISHKEK – On July 2, the US military handed control of the vast Bagram Air Base to the Afghan government. US troops and their NATO allies are now on track to leave Afghanistan by mid-July, well ahead of US President Joe Biden’s September 11, 2021, withdrawal deadline.

According to a new analysis by researchers at Brown University, America’s two-decade war in Afghanistan cost it nearly $2.3 trillion. Now, Afghanistan’s neighbors – Pakistan, Iran, China, India, and the Central Asian countries – are wondering just how much it will cost them to maintain security after the United States is gone.

In late June, the US intelligence community concluded that the Afghan government could collapse within six months of the US withdrawal – a stark downward revision of its earlier, more optimistic assessment. As the Taliban has swept through northern Afghanistan, capturing dozens of districts and major cities, Afghan security forces have often surrendered without a fight. According to a June report from the United Nations Afghanistan Sanctions Monitoring Team, the Taliban now exercises direct control over more than half of the country’s regional administrative centers, and controls up to 70% of the territory outside urban areas.

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