Europe’s turmoil over Taliban takeover masks major power vacuum from Brussels

By Vincenzo Caccioppoli

THE collapse of the Afghan national government earlier this month, culminating in the entry of the Taliban into Kabul and the declaration of an Islamic emirate stunned most observers with its rapidity, even if the result itself was inevitable.

The speed was a surprise. No one imagined such an unconditional surrender by the Afghan forces, as US President Biden clearly stated at a press conference. 

The pace with which the Afghan security forces unravelled, provincial leaders exchanged allegiances and the national government disbanded, however, showed that to the end, Western assumptions about Afghanistan were shaped more by a pious desire than reality on the field.   

One trillion dollars on the American side alone and 2000 soldiers killed , absolutely in vain, considering how the puppet government of Ghani and its army literally liquefied in the face of advancing Taliban.

Taliban leaders were perhaps even themselves surprised by the ease with which they conquered the capital. 

It makes one smile then to think of what the American president said in one of the most grotesque press conferences of an any US leader in history. 

It was July 8, just over a month ago, when Biden defended his decision on Afghanistan in a press conference with words that today sound very far from reality and in some ways almost grotesque. 

“Is the victory of the Taliban inevitable?” reporters asked him.

“No, because the Afghan army has three hundred thousand well-equipped men and an air force against about 75,000 Taliban.  It is not inevitable,” Biden said.

In the days following his election Biden had proclaimed that America is back – but even this risks becoming just a simple slogan that is not very credible. 

None of these statements seems to have a shred of foundation, after what has happened in recent days, as if it were not the most powerful man on earth who spoke but a simple passer-by. 

Perhaps never before has the credibility of the greatest world power been so low.  And the fault is not only or certainly not all of Biden, because the change of attitude began under the Obama administration, which is only now showing all its weakness and ineffective foreign policy. 

It was precisely on Afghanistan that Obama in his first term had aimed at strengthening the mission, and then completely changed his mind in his second and starting the demobilization, which was continued by Trump and completed by Biden. 

Now the ball passes to China, Russia and Turkey, which now seem to have taken a greater interest in the situation than an America increasingly turned inwards. 

“We are facing a very serious defeat for the West.  An amateurish management of the withdrawal by the Biden administration has given the green light to the decisive Taliban advance, up to the dramatic images arriving from Kabul in these hours.  The American helicopters landing on the embassy roof to evacuate US diplomats bring to mind the images of Saigon 1975, the very ones that Biden himself exorcised just a few weeks ago. “

Carlo fidanza, mep of the European Conservatives and Reformists group

Because in the end, in all this chaos, the one who risks paying the greatest price is once again Europe, which has to suffer the decisions of others without being able to have a concrete impact on the new international geopolitical structures. 

Without an army and without a real foreign policy, this Europe has no possibility of asserting its reasons and interests. 

The Afghan question had served precisely to strengthen the Atlantic alliance with the US.  In the wake of Europe’s failure to address the Yugoslav wars in any meaningful way and amid the heightened post-Cold War doubts about NATO’s continued relevance and purpose, the European response to the 9/11 attacks has served in a sense to demonstrate the value of the solidarity of the alliance. 

But it has also helped define the nature of Europe’s potential contribution to Washington’s defense, after so many decades in which Washington has provided Europe’s. 

With 9/11, Europe’s role seemed to have grown just as a reserve tank for the United States in its role as guardians of the world.  Now the sensational failure of this mission cannot fail to have repercussions on the entire NATO alliance, questioning as never before now the meaning and usefulness of an alliance that is becoming more and more inconvenient for the USA and more and more onerous for Europe. 

All this can only favor China, Russia and Turkey which for some time have been trying to weaken NATO and the Atlantic alliance, now considered central only in words by many European governments, Germany in the lead. 

The disastrous war in Libya strongly desired by the French Prime Minister Sarkozy and accepted by many other European countries, such as Italy and Germany, did nothing but reinforce the idea that NATO’s role had lost its centrality in international geopolitics. 

Now the disastrous management of the USA in the face of the Afghan crisis places Europe at a crossroads: to remain in the decision-making irrelevance to which it has been reduced in the last twenty years or to react and find the strength to insert itself as a mediator in place of the USA and in opposition with the Chinese Russian and Turkish hegemony.

A decade ago, former French foreign minister Hubert Vedrine liked to say: “Europe has to choose between becoming a global power or a huge Switzerland.”

But this comparison does not highlight the fact that Switzerland manages to maintain a position of privileged isolation, something that Europe will never be able to do and therefore the only solution for its salvation and perhaps for its very existence is that of finally becoming a true global power.

Featured Image: Pixabay

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