Spanish politics forgot Afghanistan a long time ago. At the very least, since 2014, when the last troop detachment withdrew. At the end of June this year, he returned to Spain the group of 24 soldiers which was part of NATO’s Resolute Support mission. The United States had already decided to complete the withdrawal decided earlier by the Donald Trump government. European governments, the same ones that now criticize the Joe Biden Administration for the chaotic withdrawal in the greatest Western failure of the 21st century, already knew that they had to pack their bags without causing much noise, because ultimately their presence in the country it had always been secondary.
The only state that had a relevant military role was the United Kingdom, which concluded its intervention in Helmand province with a resounding failure, one of such caliber that its soldiers had to be replaced by US marines. In the reconstruction of the Afghan police, Germany led the initiative since 2002 and in 2007 it was formed the European mission called EUPOL to train local agents, whose record was not much better. The Afghanistan police were the most corrupt of all the military and security forces.
Now it is time to lament the brilliant Taliban victory, point the finger at some governments and fear – as Macron said without flinching in the middle of the humanitarian tragedy – a possible massive flight of refugees reaching Europe. Or congratulate yourself on the effort to evacuate tens of thousands of Afghans who collaborated with the military forces of the United States and Europe. The latter serves to ignore in recent weeks that the Afghan state set up by Westerners was a fiction condemned to disappear without outside help.
José Manuel Albares appeared on Monday in the Foreign Commission of Congress to report on the efforts made by the Government in the last two weeks. Domestically, the new Foreign Minister presented the assessment of the evacuation of 2,206 Afghans carried out by the embassy in Kabul and the Army in very difficult circumstances, in addition to the public endorsement offered by the US and the European Commission to the Government work. Not that the latter is the most important, but the People’s Party had decided that the crisis in Afghanistan was a perfect matter to continue shaking the Executive. Pablo Casado took advantage of a communiqué on August 21or the US State Department, which thanked a score of countries that offered to host some Afghan refugees, including Spain, to denounce that Pedro Sánchez had been “absent.”
Casado was betrayed by his eagerness to oppose in everything and with everything, also in the issues in which it is convenient to wait and see how events evolve. This time, reality hit him in the face in a matter of minutes. That same day, Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel appeared in Madrid with the intention of praising the measures taken by Sánchez to welcome the evacuees before their subsequent distribution to other European countries: “Spain has shown humanity and solidarity. It is an example for the soul of Europe, “said the president of the European Commission.
It is not the first time that Casado has been left hanging by the brush. The PP leader seems unable to understand that the Commission works primarily with governments. If you get help from them, especially on issues most look the other way, you won’t be stingy with thanks.
As if it were all part of an international conspiracy, August continued to run over Casado, hyperactive even on vacation. That same Saturday night, Joe Biden called Sánchez by phone, once he learned that Spain allowed the use of the Rota and Morón bases for whatever the US needed. A week later, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, thanked the collaboration of the Spanish Ministry of Defense. It seemed that everyone was determined to expose Casado. While the mayor of Madrid made jokes about Sánchez’s footwear during a videoconference, the Government was reaching agreements with its allies.
Some make jokes and others intervene in the largest air evacuation in decades. The distribution of roles in major crises always hurts the opposition, and in this case the PP decided to make it more evident that Afghanistan was only interested in trying to wear down the government. In the commission on Monday, the PP spokesperson affirmed that all the credit for the evacuations went to the Spanish ambassador and the military. And he did not deprive himself of talking about the “goodness” of the left, since in the PP there is true devotion to the defense of evil.
He also spoke of Venezuela, of course, to denounce that the Government is “absent” from the negotiations between Maduro and the opposition that are taking place in Mexico. The PP is the same party that was infuriated by the Sánchez government’s previous support for dialogue in Venezuela, considering it a form of support for Maduro.
Albares gave a first response in Congress to a question on which European governments have not yet made a final decision. “The government does not consider of course to recognize the new Taliban regime imposed by force,” he said. He did comment that there may be “operational contacts” with the victors of the Afghan civil war with the aim of continuing to remove people from the country. A spokesman for the Taliban national leadership said this weekend that the new government will not hinder Afghans who want to leave Afghanistan through land borders if they have the appropriate passport and visa. No one can be sure that this announcement will be fulfilled.
It is difficult to promise that attempts will continue to evacuate those who worked for Western military forces without maintaining any relationship with the Government of that country. Nor is it clear that the European countries and the US should punish the Afghan population by plunging them into misery if they block the aid that the World Bank and other international institutions could grant them. The Afghan state has supported itself economically until now thanks to immense foreign aid. Imposing the isolation of the Taliban government or passing economic sanctions will not draw much criticism in Europe, but it will be the Afghan citizens who will suffer the effects first.
That is a question that European governments and the EU will have to discuss in the coming weeks. It will obviously depend on the first steps of the Taliban government and the interest that exists in Europe to continue talking about that country martyred by war for forty years. In Congress it is possible that these twenty years of military intervention in Afghanistan will continue to be debated. Hopefully with a higher level of information. The session was heard saying that “Afghanistan is an artificially created buffer state.” The creator of the modern Afghan state was Ahmed Sha Durrani, who was crowned king in 1747. In subsequent decades he extended his rule to northern India. One wonders in these cases why Europeans think that the only authentic states are their own.
Aitor Esteban commented in the parliamentary commission that in the last appearance of the former Minister González Laya, not even the word Afghanistan was pronounced. It’s what happens when you forget about wars. They have a habit of reminding you that they exist and of doing so with the most dramatic consequences you can imagine.