Afghanistan catastrophe and EU strategic autonomy

Employment and Social Affairs

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The failure, after 20 years, of NATO operation in Afghanistan is raising fundamental questions in the United States but also in the European Union. Taliban’s rapid seizure of power soon after the end of the international mission in Afghanistan stresses once again that democracy cannot be exported, but inevitably raises doubts even on the effectiveness of this 20 years long NATO intervention.

Namely, for the EU, there is a question concerning his role as international political actor. While the United States decided the strategy of Western intervention in Afghanistan, several European countries made a big investment of troops and resources in the effort. Intervention fatigue has spread among NATO member states.

After the “forever wars” in Iraq and Afghanistan, as suggested by the European Council on Foreign Relation, the United States is clearly no longer willing to serve as the “world’s policeman”. The pressure has thus increased once again on Europeans to engage in crisis management in their own neighborhood.

In the future, the European Union will need to enhance its contribution to crisis prevention, stabilization, and peacebuilding. At the same time, the failed Afghanistan mission highlighted doubts on whether military interventions make sense at all. Future military interventions, in any case, must have a clearly defined and achievable purpose, with the means necessary to deliver them. The EU should furthermore work on strategic autonomy.

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell said the crisis in Afghanistan, sparked by the withdrawal of Us troops, had highlighted the need for the EU to have its own military capacity. “The EU must be able to intervene to protect our interests when the Americans don´t want to be involved,” Borrell told the Italian newspaper “Corriere della Sera”. “Our first entry force should be made of 5,000 soldiers that we are able to mobilise at short notice. We have EU Battlegroups but these have never been mobilised. We need to be able to act quickly”, he added.

The return of the group to power in Kabul on August 15 has furthermore plunged the future of many Afghans into uncertainty and sparked concern that millions may seek refuge in neighbouring countries and Europe. “We will have to increase cooperation with the neighbouring countries to resolve issues related to Afghanistan. We must help them with the first refugee wave”, asserted Borrell. “Neighbouring countries will be affected more and earlier than Europe. So yes, that also means giving those countries financial support as we have done with Turkey”, he added.

The EU Ministers of Home Affairs met on 31 of August for an extraordinary Council meeting to discuss developments in Afghanistan, more specifically in relation to potential implications in the areas of international protection, migration and security. “The seriousness of the evolving situation requires a determined and concerted response to its many dimensions by the EU and the international community”, they stressed.

“The evacuation of our citizens and to the extent possible of Afghan nationals who have cooperated with the EU and its Member States and their families, has been conducted as a matter of priority and will be continued. In this regard, intensive work is underway to identify targeted solutions for the remaining specific cases of persons at risk in Afghanistan”, they added suggesting that as “an immediate priority, the EU will continue to coordinate with international partners, in particular the UN and its agencies, on the stabilization of the region and to ensure that humanitarian aid reaches the vulnerable populations, in particular women and children, in Afghanistan and in neighbouring countries”.

According to EU Parliament President, David Sassoli, failure to manage migration flows can lead to overwhelming the Eu as has happened in history. During a debate at the Bled Strategic Forum, in Slovenia, Sassoli highlighted his concerns about the statements of the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban when he says that he does not want to manage the migration phenomenon, but wants to stop it. “Since history is often a teacher of life, I would not want what happened to be repeated for the EU. for the Roman Empire”, Sassoli said. “Not guarding our borders, not managing migratory flows, can lead to overwhelm us. This is why I am worried about this attitude. We discuss solutions and my motto remains that of the EU: united in diversity”, he concluded.

Written by: Valerio Palombaro

Submitted on: September 6, 2021

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