Europe Reacts to Biden’s Afghanistan “Miscalculation”

Many of America’s long-standing allies are asking what will happen to the values-based, US-led world order now that Kabul has fallen and the Taliban nearly controls the whole of Afghanistan.

While President Joe Biden’s military departure by 31 August is unavoidable, the speed with which the situation has devolved into turmoil, as well as the White House’s lack of contrition and flexibility, has left allies in a state of disarray.

The other G7 leaders, led by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, pushed the US President on Tuesday to extend the deadline to allow foreign nationals, Afghans who have assisted American soldiers, and other vulnerable populations leave the country. Biden, on the other hand, remained unflappable.

As America’s friends, particularly Europe, view it, the US is walking away from a crisis it helped to create, with little consideration for the issues it causes abroad.

“When America switched direction on Syria, it caused a crisis in Europe, not the US,” one senior European official told CNN.

Because so much of the world’s foreign policy, particularly in Europe, is predicated on the premise that the US’s commitments to the values-based Western order, as expressed through the UN and NATO, are unbreakable, this is difficult for friends to swallow.

In terms of international politics, Europe’s reliance on the United States is nothing new. Throughout the Trump administration, European diplomats and officials talked to CNN several times about the necessity for “strategic autonomy.” However, the lack of a cohesive policy has delayed these efforts, which means that when the US leaves Afghanistan, everyone else leaves as well.

“The Parties to this Treaty reaffirm their confidence in the aims and values of the United Nations Charter, and their wish to live in peace with all peoples and all governments,” the treaty begins.

“The goals of the United Nations are … to maintain international peace and security, and to that end … to adopt effective collective actions for the prevention and elimination of threats to peace,” according to the UN charter.

Critics are baffled as to how Biden‘s recent actions fit with these pledges, and are concerned that it reinforces America’s withdrawal from the international stage. However, Biden has maintained that his country’s anti-terror mission in Afghanistan was completed a decade ago, when American soldiers killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, and that the US remains a worldwide leader in other areas, such as humanitarian assistance.

Biden addressed the press on Tuesday about his meeting with the G7:

“We talked about our mutual obligation to support refugees and evacuees currently fleeing Afghanistan. The United States will be a leader in these efforts and we’ll look to the international community and to our partners to do the same.”

He continued: “All of us agree that we’re going to stand shoulder to shoulder with our closest partners to meet the current challenges we face in Afghanistan, just as we have for the past 20 years.”

But many have doubts about what this means in practice.

“To me, this shows the end of one geopolitical era, which was about creating a liberal international order, and the beginning of a new one, which is about the competition between China and America,” said Mark Leonard, director of the European Council on Foreign Relations, earlier on Tuesday.

The United States’ withdrawal from a critical strategic region has opened the door for its foreign adversaries to expand their influence in Afghanistan under conditions which are considerably different from those demanded by the West.

Historically, American – and by extension Western – assistance to nations like Afghanistan was provided in exchange for something in return.

‘This seriously undermines the West’s political and moral credibility,’ says a top German politician.

BERLIN, Germany — Until Sunday, Europe believed Joe Biden was a foreign policy expert.

Now, European officials are concerned that the American president’s decision to allow Afghanistan to fall into the hands of the Taliban has unwittingly accelerated what his predecessor, Donald Trump, began: the degeneration of the Western alliance and everything it is supposed to stand for in the world.

Officials across Europe have reacted with a mixture of shock and betrayal. Even supporters of Biden’s candidacy who hoped he would calm current tensions in the transatlantic alliance thought the pullout from Afghanistan was a historic blunder.

“I say this with a heavy heart and with horror over what is happening, but the early withdrawal was a serious and far-reaching miscalculation by the current administration,” said Norbert Röttgen, chairman of the German parliament’s foreign relations committee. “This does fundamental damage to the political and moral credibility of the West.”

Röttgen, a member of Merkel’s Christian Democrats, is not a flamethrower. He has known Biden for decades and was confident in his chances.

While Merkel has avoided open criticism of Biden, she has made it plain behind the scenes that she thought the premature departure was a mistake.

According to German media sources, she addressed a gathering with leaders from her party late Monday, saying “these are terrible occurrences for people who believed in democracy and freedom, especially for women.”

The attitude was similar in the United Kingdom, which, like Germany, backed the US involvement in Afghanistan from the start. “Afghanistan is the most disastrous foreign policy failure since Suez. “We need to reconsider how we deal with allies, who matters, and how we protect our interests,” Tom Tugendhat, the Conservative chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the UK parliament, tweeted.

Afghanistan is sure to be used as proof for why “strategic autonomy” is important at a time when several European leaders, notably French President Emmanuel Macron, have been pressing for the bloc to adopt a security policy less dependent on America.

“Naturally, this has harmed American reputation, as well as the credibility of the intelligence agencies and the military,” Rüdiger Lentz, the former director of the Aspen Institute in Berlin, said.

“All one can hope is that the damage to America’s global policy leadership is limited.”

While dissatisfaction with the direction of events in Afghanistan was felt across Europe, it was especially strong in Germany. The Afghan operation was not simply about going to an ally’s assistance or “nation-building” for Germans; it was also about showing to the world and to Germany that it had transformed.

The campaign in Afghanistan was Germany’s first significant deployment since World War II. In the fall of 2001, when then-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder asked the German Parliament to approve the mission in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks, he ran into opposition from his own Social Democrats and decided to risk his political survival by tying the decision to a confidence vote. (Schröder later complained to colleagues that US President George W Bush did not understand the risk he had taken, which may explain why the chancellor declined to join the US war in Iraq a year later.)

Once the troops were in Afghanistan, then-Defence Minister Peter Struck used one of the most memorable passages in a parliamentary speech in recent decades to urge Germans to support the mission in the long run: “The security of the Federal Republic of Germany is also being defended in the Hindu Kush,” he said.

Germany has felt the consequences of the Afghanistan operation in a variety of ways throughout the years. Despite the fact that its forces were stationed in a reasonably calm region of the country, over 60 German soldiers died there. Only soldiers serving in Afghanistan have ever received the German army’s medal of bravery, a rare distinction.

During that time, Germany also spent countless billions in Afghanistan and welcomed thousands of migrants.

Despite the fact that successive German administrations remained committed to the Afghan mission, it was always divisive.

This tension was reflected in the 2014 film “In-between Worlds,” which told the story of a German soldier and his Afghan interpreter.

After surviving an attack, the soldier says to the teenage interpreter, “Do we ever make a difference or is it just a fucking waste?”

Germany finally has a solution.


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