Stung by Afghan debacle, EU forges ahead with security plans
Brussels: Stung by the swift collapse of the Afghan army and the chaotic US-led evacuation through Kabul airport, the European Union on Wednesday unveiled new plans to develop its own defense capacities to try to ensure that it has more freedom to act in future crises.
More than 100,000 people were evacuated in the frenzied final days of the US airlift after President Joe Biden said American troops would leave, forcing the hands of EU countries incapable of facing the Taliban alone. Many thousands of Afghans remain, desperate to escape the uncertainty of Taliban rule.
The scenes of chaos included Afghans plunging to their deaths from the sides of military aircraft on takeoff and a suicide bombing that killed 169 Afghans and 13 US personnel and encapsulated the end of a two-decade war led by Washington with financial, political and security support from the Europeans.
In a self-styled State of the European Union address, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that the failure of the government and security forces in Kabul and their fall to Taliban insurgents in a matter of days raises troubling questions for the 27-nation bloc, but also for NATO.
"Witnessing events unfold in Afghanistan was profoundly painful for all the families of fallen servicemen and servicewomen," von der Leyen told EU lawmakers. "To make sure that their service will never be in vain, we have to reflect on how this mission could end so abruptly."
"There are deeply troubling questions that allies will have to tackle within NATO," the former German defense minister said. But she conceded that cooperation with NATO, where the US is by far the most powerful and influential member, must also remain a priority.