Following in the footsteps of the United States, the North American Treaty Organisation (NATO) on Monday lowered their flags in Kabul to mark the end of the 13-year long war in Afghanistan. In a similar vein, NATO will leave behind 12,000 soldiers to carry out support and intelligence operations under the new mission titled Operation Resolute Support. This leaves the security of the country officially in the hands of the Afghan national security forces. The withdrawal of the last active foreign combatant has prompted the Taliban to release a scornful message: dubbing the withdrawal as the “defeat” of the US and its allies in the Afghan war. With the insurgency in full flow in many parts of the country and 2014 emerging as the bloodiest year of the whole conflict, the otherwise rhetorical statement by the Taliban gains some legitimacy.

NATO has clearly failed when it comes to eradicating insurgency, it has failed to eradicate the militant network and many key leaders still elude it. Apart from a few urban areas, Kabul exerts very little control over swathes of its land. It would be a fair assessment that instead of eradicating the Taliban, it has made them a far more ruthless, well-armed, well-trained and vengeful organisation. The Afghans are already bearing the brunt of this failure, with more than 10,000 civilians killed in 2014 alone. It has also failed to end the drug trade that originates out of Afghanistan despite spending millions of dollars on the projects. This money is the prime source of the financing of these militants and as of 2015, Afghanistan amounts for 90% of the opium in the world. The closing ceremony was perhaps cognizant that it has fallen short in its main objectives, as there were sobering words said to ensure that the fight must go on. What NATO has achieved is helping to build a 350,000 strong security force in Afghanistan from scratch. It is woefully ill-equipped and ill-prepared, but it is a fighting force nonetheless. The democratic legacy it has left behind is intact, yet tainted with a draining power struggle.