The longest war in American history is now officially over. At 11.59 pm local time on August 30, the last American C-17 took off from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, carrying the last load of U.S. troops.

While it is very hard to reconcile leaving Afghanistan — and for many people, this is both the right and wrong decision — it is the new reality. Adding to the difficulty of that reconciliation is the controversial and frustrating nature of how the withdrawal was handled over the last couple of weeks. Nonetheless, it is done: this long, confusing chapter of American history has come to an end.

So, now, the question is what comes next. It is likely that the Taliban will return to their brutal and strict version of Islamic Sharia law. ISIS-K will also likely continue to grow and move towards its goal of an even stricter and more brutal Islamic caliphate in the region. Other extremist groups will also likely continue to gain a foothold and influence.

Meanwhile, most Afghans will bear the brunt of this future conflict and any suffering that comes from it. Women, girls, and Afghans who helped the West will suffer the most. The new resistance movement that has emerged will likely fight until it cannot keep fighting any longer. Another long, protracted Afghan civil war will break out. Or, a very short, ruthless civil war in which the Taliban crushes the opposition.

A UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter door gunner, assigned to TF Wolfpack, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade, looking for any sign of trouble while flying through the mountains of Nangarhar province near the Afghan-Pakistan border Feb. 9, 2015. (Photo by Capt. Jarrod Morris, TAAC-E Public Affairs)


Time to End the Dysfunctional and Naive Co-Dependency on Pakistan

By leaving Afghanistan, perhaps the biggest gain for the United States will be the ability to now hold Pakistan accountable for playing both sides over the last 20 years. A huge reason the United States struggled mightily against the Taliban and other extremist forces, is because they simply melted away or found refuge in Pakistan. There is no reason to maintain any more false pretenses. The U.S. no longer has the need to maintain the relationship to benefit from Pakistani ports and roads, either.

One of the best things the Biden administration can do right now is call out Pakistan. It is also time for the U.S. government to finally admit that trying to keep Pakistan as allies had few benefits. The U.S. should create more distance from Pakistan, and instead foster a strong relationship with India.

Holding Pakistan responsible and not giving it any additional economic or military aid, is imperative. Reducing Pakistani interference will be key to any future success in the region. The U.S. must put sanctions in place against Pakistan that will have decisive and severe effects.