US President Joe Biden reviews the notes during a meeting in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, USA, on August 25, 2021. Illustrative image.| Photo: Stefani Reynolds / POOL / EFE Agency
The decision of the United States to leave Afghanistan could result in consequences that go beyond the daily lives of the Afghan people. The precipitous withdrawal of troops that generated a rapid advance by the Taliban on the capital Kabul and the consequent confusion for the removal of civilians from the city’s airport, added to the terrorist attack that so far killed 170 people, including civilians and military, prepared the scenario for a crisis of confidence in the United States among its partners in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO.
This at a time when China has revealed itself as the main rival of the US in world geopolitics.
Biden announced in April that he would withdraw US troops from Afghanistan. This was seen by NATO allies as a fait accompli rather than a joint decision.
This decision undermined the group’s motto “all in, all out” and left the Europeans with no choice but to leave.
Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the British Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, criticized American behavior on the issue of New York Times: “The sudden withdrawal from Afghanistan after 20 years and so much investment in lives and efforts will make allies and potential allies around the world wonder if they have to decide between democracies and autocracies, and realize that some democracies no longer have the power to support”.
Before, “everyone knew they would depend on the United States to defend and support the free world,” he added.
Now, many European countries fear that withdrawal from Afghanistan will have destabilizing effects that directly affect their security interests.
Europeans fear losses
The continent fears a disordered immigration flow such as that which occurred during the Syrian war. European leaders are even organizing to put pressure on neighboring countries in Asia to take in Afghan refugees.
In addition, the geographical proximity makes the European continent a preferred place for terrorist attacks by possible Islamic extremist groups that may flourish in the midst of the power vacuum in Afghanistan.
The Europeans criticize that the American president’s decision was motivated more by questions of internal politics than by an effective need for international security.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair even claimed that Biden acted “in obedience to a stupid political slogan about ending ‘eternal wars’.”
Another aggravating issue was the slowness with which Biden responded to calls from NATO leaders. Boris Johnson, the prime minister of the United Kingdom, the main historical ally of the United States, took 36 hours to talk to the American president about the crisis.
Future of NATO
When Afghanistan’s most critical issues are resolved, these factors will certainly weigh on a possible arm wrestling with China or Russia.
On the other hand, a report by the Center for Strategy and International Studies shows that the crisis generated by Afghanistan can also serve as a warning for a reorganization of the performance of the western military forces.
A reform that was already being advocated on both sides of the Atlantic.
On the European side, alternatives are being sought for the need to count on the support of the United States in the material support of military operations.
This is reflected in a gradual increase in European defense budgets since 2015 (with an increase of 1.7% in relation to GDP) reaching an increase of 4.6% of GDP in 2019.
The article emphasizes however that there is a long way to go towards a possible European autonomy.
Even so, the US allies have no interest in abandoning their old partner, especially in a post-pandemic recovery scenario, when Russia and China are ready to make their economic-political influence grow in the world.
This scenario shows that, despite the crisis, facing the challenges by the West in the next decade requires a NATO reform.