The shameful events in Afghanistan in recent weeks have led to a dramatic loss of credibility for the US and NATO in the minds of the Western public. The earlier criticism of the Atlantic Alliance’s policies and actions has now increased enormously and has become the most widespread meme in the publications of various media.
The mournful announcement of the British Daily Mail is more straightforward than ever. Next to the image of a coffin covered in the national flag, is posed a question Britain has never been able to answer: what, in the end, did they all die for in Afghanistan?
The British TV channel Sky rightly points out that after the withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1989, the official government of Afghanistan endured for three years, and after the US withdrawal it did not last even three hours.
The seizure of power in Afghanistan by the Taliban (banned in Russia) is a grave disgrace and a shameful defeat for NATO, believes the Swiss TV channel SRF. One of the Alliance’s grandest projects of the past two decades has been brought to an ignominious grave. Western countries have failed to build democracy in Afghanistan, and now they refuse to even address the future of the country and its people.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is not cut out for big speeches; indeed, even when he has something positive to say, he gives, to put it mildly, “an excessively reserved impression,” writes a diplomatic correspondent of the Swiss TV channel SRF. When Stoltenberg was finally confronted about the failure of the Western military alliance in Afghanistan, he looked deeply broken and depressed.
As The Wall Street Journal points out, Biden’s “disgraceful departure” from Afghanistan was a slap in the face for NATO. Following the 9/11 attacks, when the Collective Defense Clause was invoked for the first time in history in Afghanistan, America’s allies in the Alliance have shed much blood in that country, spent vast sums of money in the conflict, and lost more than a thousand people. The newspaper stresses that Washington almost mocked its partners when in his speech about the withdrawal of troops Biden only briefly mentioned NATO and did not say a word about the European allies of the United States. So it is not surprising that European leaders are seething with anger, concludes The Wall Street Journal.
In his time, French President Emmanuel Macron was met with a barrage of criticism when he spoke of NATO as “brain dead” in 2019. But it was then that he warned that no matter who was in charge of the US, it was becoming an increasingly less dependable ally. And today, Macron’s words seem nothing short of prophetic throughout the European capitals.
For Europe, the Taliban’s seizure of power in Afghanistan is an unmitigated nightmare, writes Deutsche Wirtschafts Nachrichten. First of all, because the US has shown through its hasty withdrawal that it no longer intends to defend the “free world,” and without American support Europe does not have enough strength to defend itself, and this catastrophic deficit is unlikely to be eliminated soon.
Moreover, there has been talk in the EU for many years about the need for a European army, which, however, has come to nothing so far. The Lisbon Treaty provides for a tight tie between the European Union and NATO, headed by the United States, but given the changed circumstances, this point needs to be reconsidered, the Germans argue. The notion that Americans would be willing to engage in worldwide warfare in the name of protecting democracy has become an illusion. The Truman Doctrine, adopted in 1947, stipulated that Washington would support free nations in their struggle against totalitarian regimes, but under former President Donald Trump and his successor, Joe Biden, the United States has abandoned these values, the German newspaper notes.
In an August 17 interview with the online publication Parlamentní listy, Czech President Milos Zeman said that the US has fallen from the prestige of a world leader after the withdrawal from Afghanistan, and concerns have been raised about the meaning of NATO’s existence. The Czech president noted that the distrust of NATO on the part of the member countries will only grow after the recent incidents in Afghanistan. At that, he stressed: “But if NATO has been a failure, then that should lead to a reassessment of our military spending and an emphasis on national defense.”
Criticizing the NATO evacuation in Afghanistan, the German tabloid Bild paid special attention to the fact that during the organization of the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, the Bundeswehr focused on removing 29 pallets of beer and a popular German beer-lemonade mix, as well as 340 bottles of wine, champagne and other alcohol that remained in stock at its base in Mazar-i-Sharif. Additional transportation capacity was provided for this, which was not previously available for the local German helpers who risked their lives to make Afghanistan a better place. Thus, 65,000 cans of beer turned out to be more valuable to the German government and Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer than the people who risked their lives to make Afghanistan better, the German media emphasize.
European leaders are wondering how the current failure in Afghanistan will affect NATO. However, according to The Washington Post observer, they should also reflect on the fact that the existence of the alliance is threatened by the hostile public opinion in their own countries. The core principle of the alliance is the rule that all countries must come to the aid of a member of it in the event it is attacked. If one refuses to participate in collective defense, the entire alliance will cease to be. And the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan raises the question of whether or not that country can live up to its commitments. However, recent public opinion polls show that those polled are no longer willing to support the US in either a conflict with Russia or in a conflict with China…
Twenty years ago, hardly anyone could have imagined that by ending the war in Afghanistan, Washington would almost call the Taliban its ally. Today, these fighters ensure the evacuation of Kabul, the Americans provide them with reports with all the data on their citizens and Afghans, who “can be allowed to enter the airport”. These passenger lists have already been dubbed the execution lists.
“Since July, the US has evacuated more than 100,000 people from Afghanistan. Were all of them Americans? Were all of them heroes? No! Only 5,000 of them are US citizens. Were each and everyone of the remaining 95,000 all interpreters? No! Today, the State Department admitted that they have no idea how many of these people have a special visa proving that they worked for the US. The pilots are not given passenger lists. We are told that refugees pass the border without being searched. It appears that we don’t even know who they are taking back here,” says Fox News host Carlson Tucker.
On the whole, the public opinion, amid recent events in Afghanistan, is that the US and NATO have once again displayed to the world their inadequacy in achieving their designated goals. And this, in turn, raises justifiable doubts as to their ability to fulfill their declared international obligations regarding the security of their allies and partners.
Valery Kulikov, political expert, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.