The West a shambles after Afghanistan?

Nato began its mission in Afghanistan 20 years ago. Today, most experts consider the strategy of building a democratic state on the basis of military support to have failed. More than 3,500 troops belonging to Nato and its allies lost their lives in Afghanistan. While some commentators point to lessons to be learned from the fiasco, others say the self-criticism has gone too far.

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Le Soir (BE) /

Nato just a cover for US hegemony

For Le Soir, Nato is dead:

“Who officially intervened, waged war, and occupied Afghanistan? Nato. ... But did Nato give anyone a mandate to negotiate with the Taliban and hand over the country to them? Was the organisation consulted? Did the member countries of the alliance have a say? No! The American government decided and implemented everything on its own. Nothing could prove more spectacularly that Nato does not exist and that this acronym is just a cover for American hegemony.”

Expressen (SE) /

Self-castigation won't help matters

In the eyes of Expressen, the West is being overly self-critical:

“Many say that an orderly withdrawal would have been possible - so that the government troops could have held their ground and the outsiders could have left in a dignified manner. But that is wishful thinking. ... Of course, many things could have been done better over the years. But an honest evaluation of the Western mission must also take account of what the alternatives were in each case and what the corresponding human costs would have been. If we are forever castigating ourselves, we run the risk of proving right those cynics who believe the West should never interfere in the 'internal affairs' of other countries - even when it comes to genocide or threats to world peace.”

Kathimerini (GR) /

Humanitarian EU must be more autonomous

According to Giorgos Pagoulatos, Director General of the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy, the situation is all that dire despite recent developments. He writes in Kathimerini:

“The defeat in Afghanistan should not translate into a free pass for the world’s tyrants to murder their citizens while the civilized world politely turns a blind eye. The West has powerful politico-military tools at its disposal. As an obvious point, Afghanistan is one more wake-up call for the European Union to develop its own strategic autonomy, both within and outside the NATO framework. Surprisingly, Europe, for all its weakness, has already an important contribution to make. As the world’s largest humanitarian donor, it protects millions of civilians in areas affected by war, famine and disaster.”

T24 (TR) /

US can no longer be relied on

With its hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan the US has gambled away international trust, T24 comments:

“The Afghanistan fiasco will not cause a loss of votes for Biden in next year's congressional elections. But it will have a major impact on international politics, and especially Turkey's regional politics. Above all, the EU - worried that it can't trust Biden and that Trump or someone similar could make a comeback - will increasingly be looking for its own defence concepts. ... Turkey will be watching this process closely.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Nato has had its day

Now Europe must show its cards, columnist Paolo Mieli demands in Corriere della Sera:

“The Atlantic Alliance already lost its main function thirty-two years ago with the fall of the Berlin Wall. Since then it has survived as a military structure, essentially under American leadership, able to intervene in crises in any corner of the globe. 'Parasitic' Europe, however, has never been willing to assume its role. Never. Not even against the wildfires that have broken out along its borders. ... Now - after a series of defeats - it is clear: Nato will (perhaps) survive. But we won't see any more interventions like those of the past. Now we will see what our continent is capable of.”

Diena (LV) /

We need a European army

According to Diena the events of the last few weeks in Afghanistan have made one thing clear:

“The EU's overdependence on the United States when it comes to security could suddenly become fatal for Europe. At the very least Europeans need their own international security forces that are functional and reliable even without US involvement. Perhaps also their own European army. At the same time, it's unclear whether the united Europe and its nation states are ready to take real steps in this direction. Or whether everyone is just waiting for the next Afghanistan.”

Jutarnji list (HR) /

Complicating factors

Jutarnji list takes a closer look at why the goal of a joint EU army won't be easy to achieve:

“The idea is as old as the obstacles that block the path to it. ... They are political, since some EU members don't want to duplicate Nato because they see it as the main pillar of their security, despite its being too dependent on the US. Others don't want what they call a 'militarisation of the EU'. As for the financial obstacles, the EU member states are still reluctant to invest in strengthening the military, and have to be reminded again and again to do so by Washington. So the creation of EU armed forces that can be taken seriously depends on the political will of the member states - and their willingness to pay for them.”

Il Manifesto (IT) /

The wrong organisation in the wrong place

Nato was certainly not the appropriate body to bring about the democratisation of Afghanistan, Il Manifesto fumes:

“The decision was made to 'adopt' Afghanistan and launch an ambitious nation-building operation. To achieve this, they turned to Nato, which was founded in 1949 as an Atlantic Pact against the USSR. But what did that have to do with Afghanistan, located 5,000 kilometres from the Atlantic? Part of the truth is that once the USSR ceased to exist, Nato didn't know how to recycle itself and readily accepted the new role Washington had given it: that of exporting democracy. Not exactly a suitable task for a military institution.”

Magyar Hírlap (HU) /

Focus on defence

Nato needs to go back to its roots, Magyar Hírlap concludes:

“The collapse in Afghanistan and the internal tensions of the Western military alliance demand answers. It is probably no coincidence that the Nato headquarters in Brussels is pushing for a return to the organisation's founding goals, which means focusing on defence instead of exporting democracy.”

Le Point (FR) /

Europe must take control of its destiny

The disaster in Afghanistan could induce Europe to act dangerously, Le Point warns:

“On the one hand, it could seek to occupy a 'middle ground' between the US on the one hand and China and Russia on the other. This would mean giving up defending its values. On the other hand, it might conclude that the military is no longer of any use, since even the US army has been defeated by Islamist insurgency. But this would be to sink into submission. At a time when the revisionist powers led by Erdoğan, Putin, Xi and others are seeking to change the world order to their advantage, Europe must stop burying its head in the sand and build a Nato that will allow it to control its own destiny.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

America First still the watchword

Because the US is sticking to the August 31 deadline for withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan, its Western partners must also complete their evacuations by that date. This is bitter, says NRC Handelsblad:

“After President Trump, the European partners thought Biden was a leader of their own ilk. But in the first major foreign crisis his promise to rebuild alliances is turning out to be mere window dressing. ... What is clear is that after eight months of Biden, America First is still the watchword in Washington. The unspoken question is whether the Americans will be prepared to rush to the aid of their allies in the future. Not only within Nato, but also elsewhere in the world. The US's actions in Kabul are not exactly reassuring.”