Brussels (Brussels Morning) EU High Representative Josep Borrell said the Union must create a quick reaction military force in order to be prepared for future unexpected crises, drawing a lesson from the most recent developments in Afghanistan.
As the security situation in Afghanistan quickly deteriorated, with the capital of Kabul becoming threatened by the Taliban in a matter of days instead of months, as the analysts originally predicted, the US was able to deploy around 6,000 troops on short notice to secure the Kabul airport and ensure the evacuation of US and allied countries’ personnel.
Speaking with the Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera on Monday, Borrell argued that the EU should also develop such capacity in the future, saying that EU governments must push ahead with creating a European rapid reaction force.
Saying the Union should draw lessons from the experience, Borrell stressed that the EU was unable to quickly deploy 6,000 soldiers to Kabul, unlike the US. The EC vice-president said that the EU should aim for the establishment of an “initial entry force” of around 5,000 soldiers, saying the bloc needs to be able to act quickly in emergencies.
In May this year, 14 out of 27 EU member states proposed establishing such a rapid reaction force. The proposing countries, including France and Germany, also discussed including ships and aircraft in the rapid reaction unit, intended to provide urgent help to democratic foreign governments.
Borrell argued on Monday that the lesson of Afghanistan is that the EU needs to accelerate its efforts in building a common defence policy. Many obstacles remain, however, as the Union lacks a common defence culture, and there are key differences over which countries should be given priority for deployment. The latter problem was what prevented the use of 1,500-strong battlegroups, first established in 2007.
The High Representative argued that now is the time to be flexible, using the financial crisis as an example of a situation in which EU countries were able to act fast and reach necessary agreements quickly. “We can work in many different ways,” said Borrell.