The fall of Kabul to Taliban was written on the wall and cast in stone the day US sealed a deal with Taliban in Doha with a timeline on its withdrawal plan from Afghanistan. Indeed, it was the incumbent US President who honored that agreement and hurried into the exit. Many blame him for being too hasty. But it was just an unavoidable option as the quagmire was too complicated to delay it any longer, with minimum collateral damage. No political pundit or security analyst observing situation in Afghanistan would have ever predicted that the country would be taken over by the Taliban with a walk over within weeks after American troops pulled out. Non one ever thought that the provincial capitals would fall like autumn leaves, one after the other and that too mostly without resistance. None ever anticipated that the Taliban forces would sweep across the country with electric speed, with rare ease, matchless confidence though all were fully cognizant of their indomitable will to fight whoever tried to resist their deadly onslaught. The world witnessed in awe that hundreds of Afghan army personnel surrendered without a fight or fled to neighboring countries. By all standards, this is the most nightmarish US foreign policy debacle in decades and also the most horrifying defeat after the one they suffered in North Vietnam back in 1975. As Taliban forces besieged Kabul, the capital fell within hours while the US and its western only rushed to evacuate their diplomats and personnel from embassies. Surprising contrasts between what happened in Kabul on August 15 and images of the last US helicopter leaving the abandoned embassy building in Saigon in 1975 only vindicated the universal truth that if you don’t learn from history, then history is bound to repeat itself. Vietnam was by far America’s longest and costliest war and finally the US had to come to grips with the sad reality that it had been defeated. Then in Saigon just like now in Kabul, the US unilaterally abandoned its allies and left them to the mercy of time. President Joe Biden has offered many plausible justifications for his decision to withdraw from Afghanistan after 20 long years, with no end in sight. Many eyebrows are being raised about the time and manner of withdrawal. Likewise, as the Taliban stormed through cities and towns, surprising all including Pentagon and CIA analysts, questions are being asked about the speedy collapse of the Afghan army. Tens of billions of dollars were spent to train and equip an army of 300,000 and yet they crumbled like a house of cards. It is dramatically ironic that the Taliban were able to survive two decades of war against a US led coalition. Biden had to admit that the United States did not go into Afghanistan to build a nation and that it found itself caught in an endless civil war. Pakistan has shifted its focus from geo-politics to geo-economics. For reaping the dividends of this policy, peace in Afghanistan is of immense value. But many believe that the US aimed to build a western style democracy in Afghanistan. The fall of the Afghan government is a sad reminder that foreign interventions rarely work and that even a superpower can fail to change the cultural ethos and genetic make-up of another nation. It has also given credence to the time tested truism that political problems require political solutions and military interventions only contribute to further compound the complications. This deadly debacle also established once more that Afghanistan continues to be the graveyard of empires. But there are some pertinent questions about Taliban’s ability to ensure an inclusive government and forge a formidable alliance with all religious and ethnic stakeholders and thereby give their people the much needed peace after almost four decades of political turmoil. Will they adhere to the Doha agreements? Will they repeat the mistakes of the past or will they try to guide the country towards a fresh beginning? Only time will answer these important questions. The continuation of the civil war might take a new shape as tribes could fight among each other to maintain control of ancestral territory. The country could face many years of chaos with the sectarian time bomb already ticking. Afghanistan’s neighbors, chief among them Iran and Pakistan, will have to make sure that the violence and anarchy do not cross the borders. Beyond the shadow of any doubt, during the 20-year-long war in Afghanistan, Pakistan has been the biggest victim and no other country has paid greater price than Pakistan. When terrorism increased in Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11, entire Pakistan faced the brunt of terrorist attacks on almost daily basis. Although the border regions were most affected, no corner of the country was spared. Resultantly, Pakistan lost over 80,000 lives during the protracted war in Afghanistan. Terrorist groups like TTP and JuA found refuge in Afghanistan’s lawlessness and started carrying out attacks against civilians and military personnel in Pakistan. The worst incident was the attack on APS Peshawar that was carried out by Afghanistan-based TTP terrorists. After the Afghan war of 1980s and then after the US invasion in 2001, Pakistan faced a massive influx of refugees from Afghanistan. Despite economic problems of its own, Pakistan welcomed them, rehabilitated them and integrated them into its society. The number of Afghans living in Pakistan has today risen to more than 4 million. If situation in Afghanistan deteriorates further, it will displace more people from the country. But today Pakistan is not in a position to absorb any more refugees. As a result of terrorism and refugee influx, Pakistan’s economy faced severe setbacks with slowdown of commercial activity and depletion of revenues. Pakistan already groans under the loads of IMF loans. For returning these loans, Pakistan had to compromise on its developmental and social welfare projects. Pakistan’s total losses due to the war in Afghanistan amount to over $150 billion which is almost half of its GDP. These losses are solely due to the spillover of instability in Afghanistan which compounded Pakistan’s existing challenges. Being a victim of the instability in Afghanistan, it is in Pakistan’s national interest that peace is established in Afghanistan. Only then the region can return to a normalcy that is conducive to economic development and social uplift. Pakistan has shifted its focus from geo-politics to geo-economics. For reaping the dividends of this policy, peace in Afghanistan is of immense value. With stability in Afghanistan, Pakistan will be able to establish direct trade links with Central Asian Republics (CARs) and many stalled projects will revive. China, Pakistan and Afghanistan have already agreed to extend BRI-CPEC into Afghanistan. Once peace returns to Afghanistan, this mega-project will significantly accelerate the pace of the war-torn country’s development. The ultimate economic beneficiary will be Pakistan as it will be connected with greater markets and more suppliers. It is an established fact that poverty and instability are breeding grounds of extremism. If such conditions continue in Afghanistan, more extremist organizations will surface and not only Afghanistan but also Pakistan will see an upsurge in terrorism. The most ominous threat lies in the possible revival of terrorist proxies that operate from Afghanistan and target Pakistan. Pakistan has decisively defeated TTP and its likes and cannot afford their resuscitation. Pakistan’s tangible contributions to peace in Afghanistan has been supported by concrete measures on ground. The incumbent government in Islamabad is performing the pivotal role of being the facilitator of Afghan peace process because it is in Pakistan’s economic and regional stability. There is not an iota of doubt that Pakistan’s desire of uplifting the region through geo-economics and regional connectivity cannot be fulfilled if there is instability in Afghanistan. It is, thus, imperative to establish peace in Afghanistan since it directly translates into peace in Pakistan. The writer is a civil servant by profession, a writer by choice and a motivational speaker by passion!