World Afghanistan Should Serve as a Wake-Up Call to Europe | Opinion
The dark irony of who TV news talks to about Afghanistan
Cable news is dominated by the same Afghanistan hawks who created this mess.But watch cable news and you’d think some of the retired officials who helped orchestrate and continue the war had learned nothing.
The U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan last month was a major wake-up call to leaders, ministers and policymakers in Europe—or at least it should have been.
The belated conclusion of Washington's 20-year war in the Central Asian nation said a lot about the futility, high expense and utter hopelessness of the U.S. mission there. But it also exposed Europe's own fecklessness, for even if European governments wanted to remain in Afghanistan after U.S. forces departed, they simply couldn't.
The Latest: Pakistan says Afghanistan in crisis helps no one
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s foreign minister says it is the collective responsibility of the international community to help Afghanistan to avert a humanitarian crisis. In a statement Friday, Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that despite having limited resources, Pakistan a day earlier sent a plane carrying food and medicines to Kabul. Qureshi said more such aid will be dispatched to Afghanistan via land routes. Qureshi made his comments ahead of the visit of his Spanish counterpart, José Manuel Albares, who was expected to arrive in the capital, Islamabad, later Friday, for talks on Afghanistan.
NATO itself, the so-called greatest alliance in the world, is almost totally dependent on the United States for its operations. It's not beyond the pale to question whetherwould survive without the assets, attention and diplomatic heft the U.S. provides. Unfortunately, Afghanistan is only one case study.
Ten years ago, when NATO was leading an air campaign against Muammar Gadhafi's regime in Libya, the alliance's inventory of strike aircraft and laser-guided munitions started running low within weeks. France's eight-year counterterrorism campaign in the Sahel region of Africa would have ended long ago if it wasn't for Washington's intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support. The, which leads a security and training mission there, often looked like a bit player in its own military operation. Europe's griping over a lack of U.S. consultation on Afghanistan is just one more chapter in what seems like a never-ending story of European leaders more interested in lecturing than in actually doing something, anything, to make themselves relevant.
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It's clear some European officials recognize the gravity of the situation. Talk of thedeveloping its own military capacity, separate and apart from the United States, was making waves throughout the continent long before the U.S. drawdown from Afghanistan. The talk, though, has accelerated since that drawdown went into effect. Addressing the European Parliament on Sept. 15, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen remarked that "Europe can—and clearly should—be able and willing to do more on its own." In The New York Times weeks earlier, EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell wrote that Europe "must invest more in its security capabilities and develop the ability to think and act in strategic terms"—perhaps by creating a European rapid response force of around 5,000 troops that could deploy during an emergency. German Foreign Minister Heiko Mass summarized Europe's predicament to the German website Der Spiegel on Aug. 24: "The reality is that the Americans decide a lot of things and we follow because we are not at all capable of carrying out difficult international missions without the United States."
Joe Biden's Speech on Afghanistan—7 Key Takeaways
The president said he stood by his decision to remove U.S. troops and that "nation building" was never the goal in Afghanistan.The Taliban seized control of Afghanistan two weeks before the U.S. was scheduled to fully withdraw its troops, who have been there since 2001.
European policymakers are clearly rattled. Nobody likes to look incompetent or powerless, which in the realm of international relations can tempt adversaries and competitors to test the envelope. But this isn't the first time Europe has been fretting about its own weakness. For decades now, European officials have understood their limitations and have even proposed remedies to plug them. The lack of European military capacity isn't a new issue; 23 years ago, French President Jacques Chirac and British Prime Minister Tony Blair released a five-point statement on the need to boost the European Union's autonomy so Europe as a whole could transform into a global player. In 1999, the EU agreed to establish a force of 50,000-60,000 military personnel that would have the ability to deploy to a conflict zone within two months. In the early 2000s, EU ministers worked on a concept that would form two joint European battlegroups of 1,500 personnel each, which would theoretically deploy on short notice. Those proposals, however, have expired on the shelf.
Republicans blame Biden for the US's chaotic withdrawal but are glossing over how Trump's Taliban deal set up the disaster
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell tried to pin the blame "squarely" on Biden, without addressing Trump's role in brokering the flawed peace deal.Yet the decision to leave the country was originally negotiated under President Donald Trump and allowed the Taliban to strengthen their position against the US-backed government - a circumstance most Republicans skirted around in their criticism.
If European governments were short on resources, one could excuse them for not fully implementing these ideas. But let's be real: Europe is one of the wealthiest regions on the planet, with NATO-Europe boasting a $25 trillion economy. The continent is enjoying its fourth decade of peace and prosperity, with the principal external threat being a Russia that is more proficient at pumping oil and hacking computer networks than it is in providing for its population. For Europe, the issue holding back the implementation of strategic autonomy (particularly in the military realm) isn't a lack of resources—it's the lack of political will.
This is a problem not only for Europe, but also for the United States, which is frequently used as a crutch by European capitals whenever an international dispute happens to arise. By and large, U.S. officials have been willing to heed the call, even as they continue to lecture the Europeans about not standing up for themselves and acting more proactively—particularly in its own neighborhood. Yet by doing this, Washington is playing the role of chief enabler to European helplessness.
Business as usual is clearly unsustainable at a time when U.S. forces are already spread thin. What U.S. officials should do is stop being an enabler and start incentivizing Europe to get out of its funk. As MIT professor Barry Posen wrote, this would require Washington to challenge conventionality by reassessing its approach toward defending Europe and engaging in some introspection about whether the current U.S. force posture of 70,000-80,000 troops is truly necessary. In short, NATO needs a new division of labor more suitable for the post-Cold War world, one in which the U.S. is the final insurance provider of Europe's defense rather than the first-responder.
The most effective way to push Europe into becoming more self-sustainable, if not independent, is for the U.S. to do less on the continent.
Daniel R. DePetris is a fellow at Defense Priorities and a foreign affairs columnist at Newsweek.
The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.
Defense secretaries in their own words: US 'invented reasons' to stay in Afghanistan .
The Taliban blitz exposes the failure of the 20-year Afghanistan war and portends terrorism threats, say former defense secretaries Panetta and Hagel.Afghan security forces, trained and equipped at the cost of $83 billion, wilted before Taliban fighters. With few exceptions, the Taliban rolled through provincial capitals without a fight despite a force of Afghan troops that was supposed to number more than 300,000. In reality, there were far fewer Afghan forces because of desertions and commanders who reportedly pocketed the pay of ghost soldiers they had kept on rolls. For those who remained and fought, there wasn't enough ammunition and food, to say nothing of pay.