“Afghanistan reveals Europe’s incapacity to formulate coherent collective security strategies and dedicate the resources required to implement them,” writes Fabrice Pothier, director of Carnegie Europe, in an April paper.
US President Barack Obama outlined his new strategy towards Afghanistan during a recent NATO summit. “After seven years of under-resourced, poorly focused and largely ineffective efforts, the mission in Afghanistan has been given strategic direction and more resources,” writes Pothier.
“At a time when American public support for engagement in Afghanistan has been showing signs of erosion, Obama has rightfully re-positioned the Afghanistan mission at the core of America’s post-9/11 narrative,” he states.
The first pillar of Obama’s new strategy is the deployment of 17,000 additional US combat troops […] in Afghanistan this year, Pothier explains.
Conversely, “other coalition troops like the Dutch and the Canadians are on the exit, whilst France and the UK are unlikely […] to make significant additions to their military presence,” he adds.
“The second pillar of Obama’s strategy is to build and strengthen Afghan institutions that can deliver security and essential services to the Afghan people,” Pothier writes, adding that this “represents Obama’s best possible exit strategy”.
Moreover, Pothier believes strengthening Afghan institutions is “where the president is likely to turn to his European allies for help”. But “even though Europe has been the target of several Al Qaeda attacks since 2001, the urgency of the European fight against terrorism has diminished,” he claims.
“Despite the generally pessimistic prospects for Europe in Afghanistan, there are a few positive signs,” Pothier underlines. “Europe can show its savoir-faire in preparing and monitoring the upcoming Afghan presidential elections this August,” he explains.
Even if the “growing call from the US administration to ‘talk to the Taleban’ is welcomed with enthusiasm in European capitals,” “much caution must be applied to what could be the latest ‘silver-bullet’ of an international community desperate for exit solutions,” warns Pothier.
“Europe can certainly do more and better […], but when Afghanistan urgently requires strategic re-engagement and resolve, Europe is unlikely to do enough,” he concludes.