Afghanistan: US troops leaving but fear remains

US President Joe Biden has postponed the final withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. His predecessor Donald Trump had agreed with the Taliban that all US troops would leave by 1 May 2021, but Biden has now moved the deadline to September 11 - the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. Commentators warn that the West must continue to provide the country with support.

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Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

Back to square one

The US withdrawal puts its previous cooperation partners in the country in real danger, warns the Tages-Anzeiger:

“Biden's decision enables his government to save American lives and save money. ... At the same time, Afghanistan faces the prospect of going back to square one, where the country and its 39 million inhabitants were in 2001. ... The Afghans most at risk are those who believed in building a democracy, who worked as drivers and translators for the US and Nato troops or Western aid agencies, who took on the post of mayor or taught children.”

El País (ES) /

Still a problem for Europe

If we lose sight of the situation in Afghanistan it will have direct repercussions for Europe, warns El País:

“It would be a grave mistake for the West to forget Afghanistan once its soldiers have returned home. A new civil war would lead to new waves of refugees that would pose a problem for the country's neighbours, but also for Europe (in 2019, before the pandemic, more Afghans than Syrians came to Europe illegally). Moreover, if the Talibans seize power again, there is a risk that the Asian country will once again turn into a refuge for terrorists”

Právo (CZ) /

The country won't be abandoned to its fate

Afghanistan is not yet a safe country, but it is very different from 20 years ago, writes former Czech Chairman of the Nato Military Committee Petr Pavel in Právo:

“The greatest progress is the awareness of a large part of the population that it is possible to lead a life other than one at war. ... The current decision does not mean that with the withdrawal the country will be abandoned to its fate. That would be a big mistake and we would certainly be forced to return sooner or later. There will be possibilities to continue to support the progressive forces that want pacification and to prevent a return to violence.”

Postimees (EE) /

The struggle goes on

Commenting in Postimees, former Estonian foreign minister and defence minister Jüri Luik calls for financial support for the government forces in Afghanistan to be maintained:

“Today the end of our long war is in sight, which unfortunately does not mean the end of the war in Afghanistan. Now it will be a civil war. I believe the withdrawal will cause great uncertainty in the Afghanistan government. For years we have affirmed that we will not leave until the job is done. The international community, especially the US, must continue to support the army of Afghanistan both financially and with equipment. ... If the soldiers aren't paid, the army will quickly fall apart and the Taliban will soon be in Kabul.”


Still thousands of Bin Ladens in the region

MEP Stelios Kouloglou (Syriza) says the withdrawal represents the failure of the US's Middle East policy. On TVXS he writes:

“We will celebrate Bin Laden's assassination in Afghanistan and forget that there are thousands of Bin Ladens in the neighbourhood. ... What remains is a small force guarding the US embassy. All it can do if the Taliban occupy the capital is evacuate the embassy by helicopter, like in Saigon in 1975. Trump had previously reached an agreement with the Taliban - further proof of their power. After the announcement of the short-term extension of the withdrawal they're even threatening not to respect the ceasefire and not to attend the upcoming peace conference in Istanbul hosted by Erdoğan.”

Le Figaro (FR) /

Back to the Stone Age and headed for the next war

The failure of Washington and Nato leaves the field entirely to the Taliban, Le Figaro laments:

“Freed of the Western forces, it shouldn't take them long to regain control of the country and catapult human rights - particularly those of women - back to the Stone Age. ... This defeat is also ours. Under the Nato flag, France deployed up to 4,000 troops before its withdrawal in 2012. And it sets the stage for the next war in Afghanistan: a civil war between local warlords who are already reactivating their private armies and a remote-controlled counter-terror war with drones. ... As the withdrawal from Iraq in 2012 showed, this region abhors a vacuum. At least the West should be cured of the naïve dream of exporting democracy for a while.”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

Taliban won't bring stability

The US troop withdrawal will lead to a vicious circle, Dagens Nyheter fears:

“The Taliban is hardly a monolithic organisation. If the external enemy disappears, the factions could start fighting each other. Warlords whose power is based on geography, ethnic minorities or clans will have their own ambitions. When the Soviet occupation ended in the late 1980s, the Western world left Afghanistan alone. As a result, it became the Taliban's deathly domain. When the US and Nato forces leave the country, new means must be sought to support and reconstruct it. Otherwise, another vicious circle will be created.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Today terrorism must be fought with other means

It seems that for the US an era in which the war on terror seemed geographically contained has come to an end, columnist Paolo Garimberti notes in La Repubblica:

“The US invasion was the response to 9/11, based on the conviction that the Taliban in Afghanistan were the sanctuary from which the jihadist attack on the West was propagated. ... Biden says that this strategy no longer makes sense. Not only because now there are other strategic threats, for example from China and Russia, but also because a new phase in the fight against jihadist terrorism must be launched. ... What is left of Al-Qaeda or IS is scattered between Asia and Africa and poses new challenges that cannot be met with conventional armies and classic warfare.”