Brussels (Brussels Morning) The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell echoes NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg and President Joe Biden’s view that the West succeeded in rooting out terrorism in Afghanistan but failed in terms of aiding the country’s state-building. For the latter failure, he points towards Washington.
During an online press conference on Wednesday, BM asked the head of EU foreign policy whether the Taliban could be considered a legitimate counterpart. His response appears to be under certain conditions:
“I have not said that we are going to accept from the Taliban whatever they do. I have said that we will put (forward) conditions to continue our support and we are going to use our leverage, all our leverage, to make human rights be respected”
BM: The security situation in Afghanistan is volatile. It appears that the West and the European Union are following in President Trump’s footsteps, legitimising the Taliban as a partner in negotiations. After 20 years of EU engagement, we are back in 1996. As an Afghan woman, I wonder what went wrong. Is the EU truly going to recognise the Taliban regime – I would hope not – and if so, under what conditions?
Mr Borrell responded by echoing BM’s points about the current situation: “I share your feelings and your concern. We will have conditions to continue our support for Afghanistan. We will use all our influence to (ensure) respect (for) human rights.”
Borrell echoed NATO General Secretary Stoltenberg in noting that Allies were committing to destroying Al Qaeda, drawing an implicit distinction between the terrorist group and the Taliban. However, he noted, this commitment gradually shifted towards building a modern state capable of guaranteeing fundamental freedoms and human rights, in particular the rights of women and girls.
“Today, twenty years later, we can say that the first part of the mission was successful,” he said, “but the second part (of the mission) was not successful.”
Addressing the question head-on, the EU foreign policy chief pointed towards Washington’s responsibility for the rapid and largely uncontrolled deterioration of the security situation on the ground: “It is not the European Union or the Member States that decided to leave Afghanistan,” noting instead that this was “a decision of [former] President [of the United States, Donald] Trump, who negotiated this with the Taliban.”
However, Borrell did not neglect to also attribute responsibility to the current Administration, noting that President’s Trump policy line “… has been (subsequently) implemented by the following American administration” and that “you can perfectly understand that we cannot remain with our limited military capacity in Afghanistan if the Americans are withdrawing.”
Ultimately, his message was one of realism, noting that the catastrophic situation in Afghanistan “happened,” admitting however that “this catastrophic situation could have been managed in a better way.”
Borrell concluded with the assurance that the EU is “going to do all we can and use all our leverage, economic and political, in order to try to defend the Afghan people with humanitarian help and with human rights (and) political conditionality.”