For many Yale students, Thanksgiving break will be their first trip home since the world changed on Sept. 11. Whatever means of transportation they rely on to carry them to their destination, the journey will be far different than ever before, and the experience once they get there will be equally transformed.

Usually, Thanksgiving break is a time to relax, to unwind, maybe even to catch up on delinquent work. This year, though, far graver issues weigh on our minds. The escape from Yale’s daily grind provides a needed opportunity to reflect on what the past months have meant to us as individuals and on what our nation must do in the time ahead.

Above all, we must be patient.

This week, the Northern Alliance — supported by an international coalition led by the United States — took the Afghan capital of Kabul while the Taliban retreated, tightening opposition control over northern Afghanistan. Men celebrated by trimming their beards, and women rejoiced by uncovering their faces — a breakthrough against the longtime repression perpetrated by the Taliban.

But while they broke the cycle of Taliban inhumanity, Northern Alliance members alarmingly committed atrocities of their own, reportedly killing several hundred Taliban supporters in Mazar-e-Sharif and Kabul.

Avoiding such human rights violations in the future must be a central objective of American policy, or else our overthrow of the Taliban will achieve little more than a superficial change in power. Our leaders must have the foresight to design a post-Taliban government that can turn the historically recurring tide of repression and instability in Afghanistan.

In order to properly assemble such a group of new Afghan leaders, we must be patient. Trained experts must evaluate the rival factions vying for power and determine which should be represented in a coalition government. Our military and political leaders must choose a course that will allow us to offer humanitarian aid once a new state has been established.

Some have suggested that America should end its military campaign now that Kabul has changed hands. To do so would not only undermine our stated objective to eradicate terrorism from the world, but it would also create an unstable Afghan state and open the door for further hate-induced attacks like those of Sept. 11.

Now that the Northern Alliance has achieved a near stranglehold on northern Afghanistan, the United States and its friends around the globe must turn their attention to the south, where the Taliban still maintain substantial support. Just as American civilian and military agents worked to convert many Taliban supporters to the opposition in the north, so too must an allied coalition work to turn the native Pashtun against the Taliban in the south.

As citizens, we must remember that such important efforts take time, and while we must continue to question the decisions of our government, we must also maintain the patience necessary to let the war against terrorism succeed.