Concern over US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan

On the orders of President Trump, the US will further reduce its military presence in Afghanistan from around 4,500 to 2,500 soldiers by mid-January 2021. Another fifth of the US troops stationed in Iraq are also to be pulled out of the country. This will have disastrous results for the region and put US military cooperation with Europe to the test again, commentators write.

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Deutschlandfunk (DE) /

A triple disaster

The withdrawal will cause considerable collateral damage, Deutschlandfunk fears:

“Military, diplomatic and political damage. Military, because the entire Afghanistan mission is being called into question. The security of the international troops in Afghanistan is at risk. ... Diplomatically, the decision is a disaster because it will condemn the negotiations with the Taliban to failure. They will no longer feel bound by agreements when there is no longer a credible threat. ... Politically, Trump's unilateral move is a massive security risk. Iran and Russia will quickly fill the vacuum in Iraq. And Afghanistan could once again become a hub of Islamist terror.”

Hospodářské noviny (CZ) /

This will rock the international alliance

Hospodářské noviny also fears the withdrawal will cause major damage:

“Trump appears to be keeping one of his key election promises. The reality, however, is that wherever soldiers have withdrawn, someone else has begun to fill the power vacuum. ... And besides: what about the allies in Europe who have sent their troops on joint missions in which American support is of crucial importance? What are they to think? They're now faced with a fait accompli. The credibility of an alliance stands and falls with the principle 'We go together and we leave together'.”

Der Standard (AT) /

The Taliban will be happy

The US president is giving carte blanche to the Islamist ex-rulers, writes Der Standard:

“Nine months ago, the US government struck a controversial deal with the Afghan Taliban, whom they had toppled in the autumn/winter of 2001: the US would withdraw from Afghanistan if the Taliban agreed to power-sharing in negotiations with the Afghan government and ensured that transnational jihadist groups such as al-Qaeda and 'Islamic State' were kept out. In the end, these negotiations went badly and the violence emanating from the Taliban increased again. This answers the question of who will benefit from the withdrawal of the US troops. The Taliban now know that the US is pulling out regardless of whether there is serious power-sharing among the various political, religious and ethnic forces in Afghanistan.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Little hope of a European answer

Brussels could use the current situation to present its own defence policy within Nato if it weren't for the renewed discord, laments deputy editor-in-chief Gianluca Di Feo in La Repubblica:

“European units could replace the US units in Afghanistan, with the focus always on training local troops and guaranteeing a peaceful transition for the country. That would be an approach that corresponds to the vision that German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer presented in her speech to Bundeswehr cadets two weeks ago. However, Paris, which with President Macron's intervention a few days ago expressed its will to strengthen the EU's military capabilities, does not seem to agree. For France, the priority is in the Sahel, the African region in which the Islamist guerrilla war is spreading and threatening to pose a danger to Europe.”