Europeans wonder if ‘America is back’ or ‘backing down’ after Afghanistan
The tragic and rapid fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban in the space of a few weeks created an absolute disaster, a debacle that left many European leaders totally in awe and wondering if there was a difference between Joe Biden and the foreign policy of its predecessor. The chaotic scenes at the airport, where mothers throw their babies into the arms of American soldiers, shocked and angered American allies in Europe. They were silent and stunned for a while, but now dissenting voices are emerging from the European continent, possibly jeopardizing the transatlantic relationship, which was neither good nor flourishing under Donald Trump’s presidency. Joe Biden defended his withdrawal, indirectly insisting that America was tired of “endless wars”, and vowed to bring all Americans home and blamed Kabul’s failure on the lack of will of Afghan troops to resist the Taliban.
But European leaders do not seem to agree with his account of endless wars and the explanation for the debacle in Afghanistan. Tony Blair, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, who played a pivotal role in assisting the US intervention against Taliban forces in 2001, came out publicly to criticize Biden’s decision, claiming that the exit of Allied troops would have jihadist groups “cheering”. According to Tony Blair, the US withdrawal from Afghanistan is tragic, dangerous and unnecessary. Criticizing the endless war narrative and addressing more to the current administration in Washington, he said the decision was made “in obedience to a foolish slogan about ending ‘eternal wars’.”
Criticism of American policy also emanates from former generals and diplomats. The hasty withdrawal from Kabul prompted HR McMaster, a retired army general and former national security adviser to Donald Trump, to express his difference of opinion to several media as well. Speaking to the BBC’s Yalda Hakim, just before the latest Taliban wave in Kabul, he said that “Afghanistan has not turned into Denmark, but Afghanistan does not need to be the Denmark ”. He explained that the mantra and narrative expressed about the dilemma in Afghanistan is the repetition of the narrative that there is no military solution to Afghanistan. And just before Kabul’s total collapse, he said the Taliban had a military solution in mind. And they implemented and imposed it.
“To see their commander-in-chief questioning the courage of the men I fought with, claiming they ran, is shameful,” said Tom Tugendhat, a British Conservative party politician who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee. He also served as a soldier in Afghanistan.
Boris Johnson in his conversation with Joe Biden, trying to strike a balance and facing increasing criticism of US policy at home, insisted that the gains made in Afghanistan over the past twenty years should not be wasted, and insisted that Western countries must act to protect themselves from the emerging threat of terrorism and must support the Afghan people.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who is awaiting a presidential election, is arguing for a separate European military force that will be less dependent on the United States. America’s pullout proves his point and as Europe again faces increasing refugee numbers, a hotly debated political issue that makes and breaks election results, it could achieve success and support for his initiative. Most European leaders, including Emmanuel Macron, know that it is not America that will face a refugee crisis, the influx of migrants will be felt in Europe, tilting the elections in favor of political parties of law.
If Joe Biden wants to improve the transatlantic relationship, he will have to be talked about with the slogan “America is back”. EU leaders are unimpressed by Donald Trump’s criticism of Biden, as he was the first to sign deals with Taliban leaders and accelerated the process of freeing Taliban prisoners. These fighters who were released from prison unleashed terror on the Afghan people, so Trump’s arguments are no longer valid. Europeans are not asking for the return of the Trump days.
European leaders still remember President Joe Biden’s visit to Brussels a few months ago where he resolutely reiterated his message to European allies. that “America is back”. They still remember Joe Biden’s promise to be different from his predecessor Trump. “It is extremely in the interests of the United States of America to have excellent relations with NATO and with the EU,” said Joe Biden. He further added: “I have a very different point of view than my predecessor.”
Europeans are shocked to see the humiliating end of two decades of war in Afghanistan end miserably in total defeat for the Allies and total victory for the Taliban. They wonder what happened to the slogans that human rights are the mainstay of Biden’s foreign policy.
Could America and Europe have done nothing to stop the wave of Taliban in the last moments? Is there a possibility of imposing sanctions on Pakistan, which has clandestinely supported the Taliban strategically and morally? Wasn’t this the moment for the Europeans, the Americans and the Russians to join hands to slow down the world jihadist forces, which are now emboldened in Afghanistan. The long-term consequences and repercussions are just starting to be felt by European leaders. And who said it might not affect election results in America as well?
The opinions expressed above are those of the author.
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