By Stefan J. Bos
The US has come under fire from the European Union over a perceived lack of cooperation amid fears the collapse of Afghanistan will lead to an influx of refugees.
Foreign ministers of the NATO military alliance held a teleconference Friday amid frustration over their inability to restore peace to Afghanistan.
Ahead of the gathering, the European Union's foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, condemned the fall of Afghanistan's capital and the resurgence of the Islamist Taliban group. "This is a catastrophe. It is a catastrophe for the Afghan people, for the Western balance and credibility, and for developing international relations," he said.
"Was it foreseeable; was it preventable? But, in any case, it is a nightmare. Because you know even if tonight the first 106 members of our staff of the European delegation has landed in Madrid, we cannot take all Afghan people out of the country," he stressed.
Borrell also told a European Parliament committee it was crucial to evacuate those who supported the US-led coalition over the last two decades.
And he indirectly lashed out at EU countries reluctant to take in Afghan refugees. "It is our moral duty to help and save as many people as possible. I have been busy with this for the last four days, and I want to thank our head of delegation in Kabul, who is still there, alone." He also said about those fleeing the nation: "Don't call them migrants. They are exiled people."
US faces criticism
Borrell criticized US President Joe Biden, saying the reality on the ground laid bare a failure of intelligence and trans-Atlantic cooperation.
But President Biden said the take over of Afghanistan by the Taliban happened faster than anticipated. "I think there is no consensus if you go back when you look at the intelligence reports. They said that it was more likely by the end of the year. The idea that the Taliban would take over was premised on the notion that somehow the 300,000 troops we had trained and equipped was going to just collapse, that they are going to give up. I don't think anybody anticipated that."
Speaking on ABC News television, Biden also suggested that nation-building was never the purpose of the US-led military coalition in Afghanistan.
However, EU foreign policy chief Borrell countered that the Western military intervention in Afghanistan was not only about stamping out terrorism. He said the mission was also about instilling the rule of law and achieving basic rights for women and minorities in Afghanistan.
Christians are among those facing severe persecution in what the Taliban now calls the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
And Borrell expressed worries that with the West leaving, China and Russia will take control of the situation. Borrell warned that the Western allies, in his words, "could become irrelevant."