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World Leaders Critique US Policy in Afghanistan

Afghan Taliban fighters are seen in Kabul, capital of Afghanistan, Aug. 16, 2021. (Str/Xinhua/IANS)

World leaders, political commentators and foreign affairs experts have joined the international chorus denouncing the US policy in Afghanistan, under which a 20-year military deployment suddenly came to a chaotic end on Sunday.

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has said that the sudden downfall of the Afghan government and the Taliban’s swift takeover has cast a “long shadow” over the West’s efforts to build a stable and lasting community, the Xinhua news agency reported.

“Scenes of despair at Kabul airport are shameful for the political West,” Steinmeier said in a statement.

The “failure” of the West’s years-long efforts in Afghanistan “raises questions about the past and future of our foreign policy and military engagement”, he said.

Earlier on Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel had said that the international deployment in Afghanistan was “disappointing,” urging countries to learn lessons from the failure in Afghanistan.

French President Emmanuel Macron has called for “a responsible and united response” within the United Nations Security Council on Afghanistan where the Taliban has regained power, warning against the risk of irregular migration flows to Europe caused by the destabilization of Afghanistan.

In an interview with Parlamentni Listy newspaper on Tuesday, Czech President described the US withdrawal from Afghanistan as cowardice and a dramatic failure of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), warning of intensifying mistrust within NATO of the legitimacy of the US existence as a so-called world leader.

“It has been rather catastrophic. It has been a long-term commitment for 20 years to make a better Afghanistan,” former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt told Swedish Television.

Describing the US withdrawal as “unforgivable,” Bildt questioned the move, saying that he was surprised by “the lack of preparation, the fact that one or the other knew what was going to happen.”

In an interview with Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws, David Criekemans, professor of international politics at the University of Antwerp in Belgium accused US President Joe Biden of making a monumental mistake in withdrawing all US military troops from Afghanistan.

“President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw all military forces is simply the West’s biggest strategic mistake since the turn of the century,” he said.

French national daily Le Monde has listed “the painful questions after the mistakes in Afghanistan”.

“US President Joe Biden, by decreeing a military withdrawal from Afghanistan before the 20th anniversary of 9/11, put an end to a double error. On one hand, the West had no reason to deploy in Afghanistan in 2002, the year following the victory of the anti-Taliban forces — one does not occupy militarily a country where there is no longer an enemy to fight,” it wrote.

“On the other hand, their very presence served as a magnet for the Taliban to resume the fight, fueling an Afghan civil war that did not exist at the end of 2001,” said Le Monde.

“Now that the Taliban have reconquered Kabul and will exercise power, there are only painful questions left,” it said.

Newspaper Le Figaro quoted congressmen who criticized Biden for his failure to plan the withdrawal, now a humiliating failure being played out in front of cameras around the world.

“This is an absolute disaster, of epic proportions;” “Joe Biden has blood on his hands;” “The very fact that we did not even succeed in securing the civilian area of Kabul airport speaks volumes about our moral and operational shortcomings,” the congressmen was quoted as saying.

Peter Neumann, a German political scientist at King’s College London, told state broadcaster ARD that the Taliban was often presented as a terrorist organization but neglected as a Pashto militant deeply rooted in the local religious and social establishment, whose support has been always there.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said there was a need for “an honest, clear-eyed assessment of NATO’s own engagement in Afghanistan”, adding that the collapse was “swift and sudden.”

“Despite our considerable investment and sacrifice over two decades, the collapse was swift and sudden. There are many lessons to be learned,” said Stoltenberg.

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