The exit from Afghanistan and the triumph of the Taliban pose deep questions for Europe
The US withdrawal from Afghanistan and the victory of the Taliban is the biggest debacle NATO has faced, according to German chancellor candidate Armin Laschet. British conservatives compared him to Suez in 1956 when the United States refused to support British and French efforts to overthrow Nasser. Where is Global Britain on the streets of Kabul, asked Theresa May. The bombings and the deaths around the airport served to highlight the chaos that broke out.
The crisis poses deep questions for the Western alliance and for transatlantic relations. European leaders conclude that they cannot count on the United States to protect their interests. In this sense, Biden continues Trump’s policy of leaving Afghanistan, shifting to Asia, and confronting China. But what alternatives are there to the existing military, security and political alliances in which the United States dominates?
The question is relevant for an EU and NATO facing potentially similar security and political challenges in the Middle East and the vast region of the African Sahel over the coming years. They too are associated with a potentially renewed mass migration, on top of that expected in Afghanistan.
The US-led Afghan invasion in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks was the first under NATO’s Article 5 solidarity clause, which was not extended to the invasion Iraq in 2003. Despite Biden’s statement that the war in Afghanistan was primarily aimed at punishing and eliminating al-Qaeda, for the German, British and European powers in NATO, this involved substantial building blocks. nation and democratization. Along with the EU, they took the lead in education, women’s programs and development aid, helping to create a larger urbanized middle class that now feels abandoned.
Yet they remained relatively silent as the US-led war turned into a much reduced troop presence under Obama, relying on a remote drone war to eliminate suspected Taliban village leaders, s ‘thus alienating rural areas and strengthening the resistance of the Taliban. Widespread corruption in the Afghan political class has hijacked development and other aid. Underpaid Afghan soldiers deprived of American air support have surrendered or made deals with the Taliban, following the example of local governors.
Allies’ mute acceptance of the extended U.S. policy of the weak Trump deal last year has been continued by Biden. This continued until the June G7 summit in Cornwall, where Boris Johnson was more concerned with US criticism of his Northern Ireland Protocol buffs than Afghan developments. Germany had no Plan B options to save their programs, while the British are now talking about reducing aid to a level below recent cuts in their development programs.
Valuing this Irish tradition becomes more compelling as the roles of the US and NATO change so drastically
The grim prospects for European politics are laid out by Green Foreign Affairs spokesman in the German Bundestag Omid Nouripour, an expert on Afghanistan, in an interview this week.
“For international politics, this is incredibly important. It’s not just a turning point; it is a catastrophe with unforeseeable consequences for the West. Since the fall of Kabul, communications from the West have been terrible. If we say we want to negotiate with the Taliban about refugees, we are degrading the Afghan people into mere bargaining chips. If we say that we want to negotiate with neighboring states on migratory flows, what does that mean? Do we really want to strike a Turkish-style deal with Iranian President Raisi?
He concludes: “In a world where power projection capabilities are essential, this is a huge setback for the West as a whole, but also for Europe. We seem fragile. We seem sensitive to blackmail. And we seem lost.
The crisis underlines the importance of regional actors like Iran, Pakistan, India, China and Turkey. The alternative to the now widely discredited liberal or neoconservative military interventionism is for Europeans to engage politically with them through the United Nations and other fora like the G20 in a more multipolar international framework. The same would apply to African powers and institutions like the African Union.
For the EU and NATO, this will mean increased efforts to create political and security autonomy from the United States, as advocated by French President Emmanuel Macron, who visited Dublin this week. He heard about Irish efforts through the UN Security Council to spur the restoration of peace in the region, combined with development policies and institution building.
This is a positive Irish contribution to a more coherent EU foreign policy, building on politically and securely engaged neutrality rather than on the more customary membership of EU states in an alliance. Valuing this Irish tradition becomes more compelling as the roles of the United States and NATO change so drastically. As future EU president, Macron was reminded of such Irish sensitivities if the current future of European negotiations resulted in proposals to change the treaty.