Monday, 15 Aug 2022

EU chiefs turn on Biden’s decision to quit Afghanistan – President’s reputation in tatters

Afghanistan: President Biden says there are no parallels with Vietnam

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Senior politicians from across the Continent have suddenly found themselves doubting the leader of the free world as a foreign policy guru. They have branded his decision to pull out of Afghanistan and leave the door open for a Taliban takeover as a mistake of historic proportions. Norbert Rottgen, chairman of the German parliament’s powerful foreign affairs committee, said: “I say this with a heavy heart and with horror over what is happening, but the early withdrawal was a serious and far-reaching miscalculation by the current administration.

“This does fundamental damage to the political and moral credibility of the West.”

Mr Rottgen, a member of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, has known President Biden for years and was considered one of his most ardent supporters in Europe.

His criticism has started to filter through to the government in Berlin.

According to media reports in Germany, Chancellor Mrs Merkel described the scenes in Afghanistan as “bitter events”.

She told a meeting of party officials: “For those who believed in democracy and freedom, especially for women, these are bitter events.”

Armin Laschet, who is expected to succeed Mrs Merkel as Chancellor after next month’s election, called it “the greatest debacle endured by Nato since its creation”.

He added: “This engagement of the international community was obviously not crowned with success.”

President Biden’s decision has prompted another push for “more Europe” as EU figureheads propose a Brussels-centred approach to the crisis.

Many governments are fearful that Taliban rule of Afghanistan will lead to a repeat of the migrant crises witnessed in 2015 and 2016, when almost a million refugees arrived in Europe from the Middle East and Africa.

Rudiger Lentz, the former head of the Aspen Institute in Berlin, told the Politico website: “Naturally this has damaged American credibility, along with that of the intelligence services and of the military.

“One can only hope that the damage to America’s foreign policy leadership can be quickly contained.”

French President Emmanuel Macron has been one of the most vocal EU leaders in calling for the bloc to be less dependent on Washington and develop itself as a foreign policy power.

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In a televised address last night, he called for a European plan to “protect ourselves against major irregular migratory flows”.

Mr Macron said: “We must anticipate and protect ourselves against major irregular migratory flows that would endanger those who use them and feed trafficking of all kinds.

“Europe alone cannot bear the consequences of the current situation.”

While many Europeans express doubt over President Biden’s decision, the US leader interrupted his summer break to defend his withdrawal from Afghanistan.

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Instead he blamed the rapid advance of the Taliban on the Afghan government.

In his first public comments since the terrorist group seized control of Kabul, President Biden said: “Our mission in Afghanistan was never supposed to have been nation-building.

“It was never supposed to be creating a unified, centralised democracy. Our only vital national interest in Afghanistan remains today what it has always been: preventing a terrorist attack on the American homeland.”

Former president Donald Trump and his allies joined the criticism of the current White House administration.

In an email to supporters, Mr Trump said: “It’s not that we left Afghanistan. It’s the grossly incompetent way we left!”

John Bolton, a former national security adviser in the Trump White House, said: “Biden’s confession that he sees the unfolding chaos in Afghanistan as validating our retreat is outrageous.

“This is not an Afghan civil war. We ceded control to a terrorist threat that now endangers innocent US citizens, as before 9/11. This is a huge, potentially fatal, mistake.”

Even top politicians in the UK joined the attack on President Biden’s decision to withdraw from Afghanistan.

Tory MP Tom Tugendhat, who is head of the Common’s foreign affairs committee, said: “Afghanistan is the biggest foreign policy disaster since Suez.

“We need to think again about how we handle friends, who matters and how we defend our interests.

“In Kabul, we’ve failed our friends and ourselves. We need to think again, fast.”

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