At the beginning of May, the US started its final phase of a pullout from Afghanistan, where American troops have been stationed for the past 20 years. According to reports, the 2,500 US troops will be gone from the war-torn country by September 2021, a move that has already raised major concerns.
The main fear is that terrorists will take over and this will eventually cause Afghanistan to fall into a state of collapse.
But Mariam Wardak, a former aide to Afghanistan's national security adviser, believes the pullout will not lead her country into an abyss.
"The Afghan national security forces are handling all the operations on the ground. Afghans have a history of being good military fighters and the international security coalition has helped us to become one of the top in the region, so the US pullout will not have such an impact on the way our forces are operating".
Withdrawal as a Challenge
Nevertheless, that withdrawal will not go unnoticed. Right now, the Afghan security forces are handling 22 active terror groups, including al-Qaeda* and Daesh*.
They are also facing the threat of the Taliban, an extremist organisation that controlled Afghanistan in the 1990s and that enforced strict Islamic law or Sharia. Their current strength is estimated at 200,000 troops and while the Afghan security forces boast a much larger contingent (325,000), their ability to cope with the group is rather limited.
The prime reason for this is Afghanistan's security forces are in charge of not only fighting with the insurgents but are also responsible for policing and providing the population with security, law, meaning their resources are often stretched thin.
The Neverending War
Yet, fighting insurgents is not Afghanistan's main issue and Wardak believes her country's major problem lies elsewhere.
One such problem is Afghanistan's civil war. From 1978, the year when it first erupted until 1989, the country lost an estimated 1.8 million people, 1.5 million became disabled, and 7.5 million turned into refugees.
The invasion by US forces in 2001 following Washington's decision to track and kill the then-world's number one terrorist Osama bin Laden further worsened the situation, costing the country more than 240,000 people.
"300 Afghans are losing their lives on a daily basis. We are killing our own people and my fear is that very soon there won't be many Afghans left".
Yet, for Wardak, it is not only about physical destruction. For her, the decades-long war has devastated the values of the Afghan people, something she says can hardly be repaired.
"Before the Soviets invaded we had such strong values as a society. But the war, destruction, and poverty shifted those values into survival mode and that pushed many people to grab whatever they could for their safety".
"As a result, many wrong people have made so much money during this period. And corruption thrived", said the former adviser.
Now looking at what seems to be a new chapter in Afghanistan's history, she says the pullout from the war-torn country could be a "wonderful opportunity".
"The meddling of other powers in Afghanistan's affairs has brought about much division and rift. The removal of US troops will push all sides of the conflict to the negotiating table. Peace will not happen in Afghanistan for a long time but stability can certainly take place and this is what we need now".
*Al-Qaeda and Daesh are terrorist groups, banned in Russia and many other nations