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Families begin to board a US Air Force Boeing C-17 Globemaster III during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan Image Credit: AFP

Over the past week, the world has been transfixed by images of people rushing to the Kabul airport trying to get on to the next available plane and flee for safety. The collapse of the Afghan security forces and the Taliban takeover of the country took everyone by surprise, leaving many questions unanswered.

It will take a long time to figure out what exactly went wrong, especially how the international intelligence community could not foresee the implications of the pullout of US and allied troops. But what is of utmost importance today is the safety and security of those left behind and those wanting to leave the country.

An Afghan soldier was killed on Monday morning and seven people died a day earlier in a stampede near one of the airport’s gates.

The Taliban have blamed the chaotic evacuation on the US military and say there’s no need for any Afghans to flee. They have pledged to bring peace to the country after decades of war. They have also said they will not seek revenge on those who worked with the US and Nato and will include women in government.

But it will take more than just words to bring peace to Afghanistan.

First, people must not feel intimidated by the presence of gun-toting Taliban on the streets. Taliban have a responsibility to reassure the people that they will not be harmed.

Second, those who want to leave the country must be allowed to do so. True, the scale of evacuation is mind-boggling and countries will have to come together to make this possible. But again the Taliban must ensure that the process is smooth.

Third, those staying behind must not be deprived of their rights — from food, clothing and shelter, to freedom of speech.

If immediate steps are taken to ensure that these basic rights are given to the people, it will help send the right message at these trying times.

Often, it is the innocent people who bear the brunt during upheavals like the one in Afghanistan. But public memory is short. Other events will vie for a place in the spotlight. This must not happen with Afghanistan.

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has expressed concern about the ongoing situation in Afghanistan and pointed out the importance of cooperation in facilitating the safe evacuation of civilians wishing to leave the country.

The world must play a bigger role in ensuring that refugees and those staying back in the country are safe and that stability returns to Afghanistan.