Stung by Afghan debacle, EU forges ahead with security plans – Times of India

BRUSSELS: Stung by the swift collapse of the Afghan military and the chaotic US-led evacuation via Kabul airport, the European Union on Wednesday unveiled new plans to develop its personal protection capacities to attempt to make sure that it has extra freedom to behave in future crises.
More than 100,000 individuals have been evacuated within the frenzied ultimate days of the US airlift after President Joe Biden stated American troops would depart, forcing the palms of EU nations incapable of dealing with the Taliban alone. Many 1000’s of Afghans stay, determined to flee the uncertainty of Taliban rule.
The scenes of chaos included Afghans plunging to their deaths from the perimeters of army plane on takeoff and a suicide bombing that killed 169 Afghans and 13 US personnel and encapsulated the tip of a two-decade struggle led by Washington with monetary, political and security help from the Europeans.
In a self-styled State of the European Union handle, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen stated that the failure of the federal 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 additionally for Nato.
“Witnessing events unfold in Afghanistan was profoundly painful for all the families of fallen servicemen and servicewomen,” von der Leyen informed 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.
Still, von der Leyen said at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, that “Europe can – and clearly ought to – have the opportunity and prepared to do extra by itself,” and she insisted that “It is time for Europe to step as much as the following degree.”
Earlier this month, EU ministers debated creating a standby EU force of around 5,000 troops to deploy in crises like the one at Kabul airport. The plan faces opposition from some of the 22 EU countries that are also members of NATO, notably countries bordering Russia comforted by US security assurances.
The idea is not particularly new. The EU has a system of battlegroups to deploy to hot spots but they’ve never been used, and the Europeans are generally reluctant to send their troops to active conflict zones.
“What has held us again till now isn’t just a shortfall of capability — it’s the lack of political will,” von der Leyen said. “If we develop this political will, there’s a lot that we are able to do at EU degree.”
She said the EU must lay the foundations for better collective decision-making and intelligence sharing, improve the interoperability of the 27 member countries’ military equipment, and invest in common projects like fighter jets, drones and cyber capacities.
The EU’s chief executive proposed a waiver on value added tax for defense equipment developed and produced in Europe, which could help wean the bloc off its dependence on US gear.
Von der Leyen said that she and French President Emmanuel Macron, who has long-called for more EU defense autonomy, notably during the turmoil of the Trump administration, will convene a summit on European defense when France takes over the bloc’s rotating presidency in the first half of 2022.

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