US: goodbye Afghanistan, adieu world stage?

The US has concluded its mission in Afghanistan: the last troops left Kabul early on Tuesday morning. Europe's press takes stock of the chaotic evacuations of the last few days and the failure of the intervention as a whole - as regards both US strategy and the role of Europe. Some see America withdrawing from the world stage while others simply see a realignment.

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SonntagsZeitung (CH) /

Back to isolationism

The US neither wants to nor can play world policeman anymore, writes the SonntagsZeitung:

“Since the 1960s, the gap between the security policy elite and the citizens they represent has widened. In the US, in particular, the political divide has become abysmal. ... As a result, the American ability to act on the world stage is suffering. No US president is capable of devising a foreign policy strategy that thinks beyond the next election date any more. Domestic and electoral considerations always take precedence. ... The lamentable defeat in Kabul is the reflection of a superpower that no longer wants to play the leading nation, is less and less able to play this role, and is running out of the money it needs to do so.”

Delo (SI) /

Europe must find its role in stormy times

The poor management of the US withdrawal under Biden's administration has increased mistrust in Europe, Delo comments:

“There was no proper coordination. This made even clearer how little the voice of the European allies counts in the transatlantic alliance. The disaster in Afghanistan is a joint failure, and European countries will have to learn from it. The new sense of Europe as an independent actor comes at a critical point of China's rapid rise and alienation from the US. And the foundations are crumbling within the EU too, because of disagreements between member states and the undermining of its founding principles.”

Ria Nowosti (RU) /

Plenty of muscle but not enough brains

Ria Novosti sees the US as having failed intellectually rather than militarily in Afghanistan:

“It was a real fiasco: everyone saw how incapable the Americans are of objectively assessing reality. This conclusion has been drawn all over the world - and it will have consequences for the US. Not only in terms of reputation, but also in very concrete geopolitical terms. The US is still strong, it can organise an evacuation of over 120,000 people within two weeks. But the intelligence to prevent such a situation from arising in the first place is lacking. The saying: 'He who is strong doesn't need to be wise' doesn't apply here. For there comes a moment when brainless strength creates nothing but problems - above all for oneself.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (DE) /

Merely a shifting of priorities

We should not be too quick to write off the US, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung warns:

“The American withdrawal is likely to actually increase America's military capacity to act. Although the combat mission in Afghanistan ended in 2014, the Americans were tied up in operations in the country until the end. ... This was precisely the goal of the American president's withdrawal, which his two predecessors would both have liked to achieve. He wants to free up space for the new priority of American foreign policy: the confrontation with China.”

Új Szó (SK) /

Military intervention not the only way

Új Szó also does not believe that the withdrawal of US troops means that Washington has thrown in the towel:

“The US has not given up its strong efforts to secure the world order. ... The capacity to intervene or project force are important, but there are numerous other ways to achieve them than military invasion. ... For example, after bombing Al-Qaeda and overthrowing the Taliban, the US could have just used a proxy war to ensure its presence in Afghanistan.”