The United States left Afghanistan on Tuesday humbled and with few of its goals achieved after 20 years of war and now Europe fears retaliation from the Taliban. For America’s European allies, the humiliation may just be starting, despite US President Joe Biden stating that the war is over.
Connected to Afghanistan by land, unlike the US, for Europe the return of the Taliban presents tangible threats. Those include not just terrorism but also mass migration and a huge increase in the heroin trade. Without a presence on the ground, European governments will now have a limited capability to influence the Taliban.
In a sign of those concerns, European Union interior ministers could not agree on Tuesday over how to handle a potential influx of Afghan refugees. Austrian, Czech Republic and Danish representatives stated unanimously that Afghans should stay put.
There are already almost 2.5 million Afghan refugees registered in countries around the world, the second largest after Syrians, according to UNHCR, the United Nations refugees’ agency.