European Council president: Afghanistan withdrawal shows need for military buildup

European Council president: Afghanistan withdrawal shows need for military buildup
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The president of the European Council on Wednesday said the dependence on U.S. troops to handle the evacuations from Afghanistan demonstrated a need for Europe to develop its own military force. 

European Council President Charles Michel said in remarks at the annual Bled Strategic Forum that the world does “not need another such geopolitical event to grasp that the EU must strive for greater decision-making autonomy and greater capacity for action in the world,” according to The Associated Press

“As a global economic and democratic power, can Europe be content with a situation where we are unable to ensure, unassisted, the evacuation of our citizens and those under threat because they have helped us?” Michel questioned. 

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While EU leaders have historically resisted the creation of a separate defense force due to cost concerns and threats to the sovereignty of member states' national militaries, the proposal has gained traction in recent years amid ongoing crises in the Middle East and Africa. 

European leaders have weighed in on the issue following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, after which European countries relied on U.S. military airpower to help evacuate thousands of foreign nationals and Afghan allies still in the country. 

EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said in an op-ed published by The New York Times on Wednesday that the chaos surrounding evacuations as the U.S. worked to complete its military withdrawal from Afghanistan should serve as “a wake-up call” for NATO interested parties. 

“The United States understandably does not want to do everything alone,” he wrote. “To become a more capable ally, Europe must invest more in its security capabilities and develop the ability to think and act in strategic terms.” 

“The events in Afghanistan have been harrowing. But they should lead us to deepen, not divide, the alliance with America,” Borrell continued. “And to strengthen our cooperation, Europe must step up.” 

The foreign affairs chief noted that EU leaders are working on a European Strategic Compass document to outline security and defense goals for the European bloc over the next five to 10 years. 

Some EU member states have suggested establishing a 5,000-member stand-by military force capable of deployment during emergencies similar to the security situation in Afghanistan.

In total, Biden administration officials said that U.S. and coalition forces were able to fly out more than 123,000 civilians from Afghanistan in recent weeks, including 6,000 Americans and tens of thousands of Afghan allies.