America’s allies in Europe understood months before President Joe Biden’s fateful April speech to the American people that a full and complete US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan was a very real possibility.
Biden talked about the urgency of getting the United States out of what he termed ‘forever war’ conflicts which required tens of billions of dollars a year (not to mention thousands of US troops on the ground) to maintain. Indeed, anybody who bothered to pay attention to Biden’s words for even a moment recognised the phrase was intrinsically tied to the war in Afghanistan, which had outlasted three consecutive presidents, resulted in the deaths of over 2,440 US troops, caused tens of thousands of Afghan casualties (a conservative estimate), and trillions of dollars. Biden had no intention of leaving the White House with US forces still on the ground, fighting a war on behalf of an Afghan government that has since proved to be even weaker, demoralised, and incompetent than most experts imagined.
Just because Washington’s Nato allies knew the decision was coming, however, doesn’t mean they are especially pleased with the execution. There isn’t much to like about how the US withdrawal has proceeded. Thousands of Afghans have been bottled up at Kabul airport and Taliban fighters are prancing around on exercise equipment in the Afghan presidential palace. US lawmakers aren’t the only ones unhappy with the way things have turned out. Across the Atlantic, European politicians are highly critical of what they call botched planning. Norbert Rottgen, the chairman of the German parliament’s foreign relations committee, even claimed that what’s unfolding in Afghanistan ‘does fundamental damage to the political and moral credibility of the West.’
Rottgen is referring to how the troop withdrawal impacts Afghanistan’s security situation.