European reaction to Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021

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Publication Date 2021
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Information Guide concerning developments in Afghanistan which led to the Taliban recapturing the country in August 2021, and in particular the response provided by European countries, the European Union (EU) and NATO.

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The President of the United States of America (USA), Joe Biden, announced in April 2021 that a full withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan would take place by 11 September, bringing an end to 20 years of intervention in the country. The withdrawal decision was carried over from the previous administration. However, media outlets reported on unease between the USA and its NATO allies over timeline, pace of withdrawal and lack of coordination. This withdrawal coincided with increasing advancements of Taliban insurgents into territories controlled by the Afghan government.

The swift recapture of Afghanistan by the Taliban was perceived to have taken many political stakeholders by surprise, in particular when it comes to the main towns and Kabul, the capital city which had been taken over by mid-August. Attention in Western world quickly shifted to the need to evacuate its nationals but also Afghan citizens working with Western stakeholders. Analysts also raised concerns regarding a fresh influx of refugees coming into Europe from the conflict zones. The evacuation came to end on 31 August 2021, following days of tension and terror in and around Kabul Airport.

Foreign ministers of the European Union (EU) held an informal videoconference on 17 August 2021 to discuss the developments in Afghanistan. They highlighted the need to ensure the safe evacuation of citizens and local staff, called for the protection of all human life and for the restoration of security and civil order with respect for fundamental rights. Justice and home affairs ministers held a meeting on 31 August to discuss the situation and potential implications in the areas of international protection, migration and security. Media reports and analyses later highlighted the potential impact of the Afghan withdrawal on discussions regarding an autonomous defence policy and military force for the European Union.

An extraordinary meeting of NATO foreign ministers was held on 20 August 2021. A virtual G7 leaders' meeting was held on 24 August 2021 to discuss the situation in Afghanistan.

Related Links
Commentary and Analysis
Euro|topics: Dossiers: Afghanistan
Chatham House: The World Today, 04/06/2021: Afghanistan: America pulls out the dagger
Atlantic Council: Blog, 09/06/2021: Biden’s Europe trip can help secure Afghanistan’s future. Here’s how.
openDemocracy: Parallel Journeys, 24/06/2021: Nassim Majidi on telling the stories of Afghans on the migration trail to Europe
VoxEU: Columns, 11/07/2021: How not to disengage from a conflict: Evidence from NATO’s war in Afghanistan
Amnesty International: Press Release, 13/07/2021: Europe/Afghanistan: European countries must heed Afghan call to halt returns
Foreign Policy, 14/07/2021: Biden’s Afghan Withdrawal Will Spark the Next Refugee Crisis
Human Rights Watch: News, 22/07/2021: NGOs urge, European countries should immediately cease all deportations to Afghanistan
TRT World: Opinion, 13/08/2021: A joint Turkey-EU approach for the growing Afghan refugee wave
Politico, 13/08/2021: Afghanistan’s crisis will soon be Europe’s too
Emerging Europe, 16/08/2021: Central and Eastern Europe scrambles to react to Taliban victory in Afghanistan
Euronews, 16/08/2021: Will the Afghanistan crisis spark a refugee influx to Europe?
Deutsche Welle: Commentary, 16/08/2021: Taliban surge in Afghanistan: EU and NATO in state of shock
TIME Magazine, 18/08/2021: Europe Sees a Migration Crisis in the Making in Afghanistan. Have the Lessons of the 2015 Surge Been Learned?
New Statesman, 18/08/2021: The Afghanistan crisis shows Europe cannot wall itself off from the world
Atlantic Council: Blog, 18/08/2021: Experts react: What the fall of Afghanistan means for Europe
CER: Insights, 19/08/2021: You can leave Afghanistan, but will Afghanistan leave you?
Chatham House: Expert Comment, 20/08/2021: The aftermath: Navigating a Taliban-led Afghanistan
VOA News, 23/08/2021: Will Afghanistan Create Another Migrant Crisis for Europe?
The Conversation (UK), 23/08/2021: Where do Afghanistan’s refugees go?
Statewatch: News, 23/08/2021: EU: Tracking the Pact: Migration plans for Afghanistan before the fall of the government
Carnegie Europe: Strategic Europe, 24/08/2021: What Afghanistan Should Mean for Europe
EUObserver: Opinion, 24/08/2021: Afghanistan: Europe's disgrace
Human Rights Watch: News, 24/08/2021: Europe: Lead Efforts to Protect At-Risk Afghans
ECRE: News, 25/08/2021: Joint Statement: Current Priorities for an EU Response to the Situation in Afghanistan
ECFR: Collection, 25/08/2021: The fall of the Afghan government and what it means for Europe
Foreign Policy, 27/08/2021: The Real Reason U.S. Allies Are Upset About Afghanistan
BBC News, 31/08/2021: Afghanistan: How many refugees are there and where will they go?
UK in a Changing Europe: Commentary, 31/08/2021: Europe's Afghanistan Problem
Deutsche Welle, 02/09/2021: Is the fall of Kabul the kick European defense needs?
Carnegie Europe: Strategic Europe, 02/09/2021: Judy Asks: Should the West Talk to the Taliban?
ECFR: Commentary, 02/09/2021: Why Afghanistan was not a failure of European strategic autonomy
EPRS: At a Glance, 02/09/2021: Afghanistan once more under Taliban rule
ECRE: Editorial, 03/09/2021: The JHA Council on Afghanistan: all about the EU
Atlantic Council: Blog, 03/09/2021: Germany’s defense minister: Only political will can protect Europe
BBC News, 03/09/2021: Afghanistan crisis: How Europe's relationship with Joe Biden turned sour
The Economist, 04/09/2021: After Afghanistan, Europe wonders if France was right about America
Politico: Analysis, 06/09/2021: For EU, Afghanistan is now a four-letter word
The Atlantic, 07/09/2021: Europe’s Afghanistan Myopia

Politico, 15/04/2021: Biden’s Afghan pullout triggers unease among NATO allies
BBC News, 07/06/2021: Germany to ship army beer home from Afghanistan
Politico, 13/06/2021: Biden heads to NATO amid friction over Afghanistan withdrawal
Associated Press, 30/06/2021: Most European troops exit Afghanistan quietly after 20 years
EurActiv, 13/07/2021: Afghanistan turmoil causes EU new migration headaches
Statewatch: Observatory, 14/07/2021: Finland halts deportations to Afghanistan after U.S. troops leave
The Local, 16/07/2021: Sweden halts deportations to Afghanistan
Reuters, 22/07/2021: As war rages, EU weighs more funds to limit Afghans fleeing to bloc
VOA News, 02/08/2021: As Taliban Advances, Europe Fears an Afghan Migration Crisis
Associated Press, 10/08/2021: Six EU nations want migrants forced back to Afghanistan
Balkan Insight, 10/08/2021: Afghan Refugee Wave Sharpens EU-Turkey Migration Crisis
Reuters, 10/08/2021: Six EU countries warn against open door for Afghan asylum seekers
Politico, 12/08/2021: Europe a fearful bystander as Taliban sweep through Afghanistan
EurActiv, 16/08/2021: European powers scramble to evacuate from Afghanistan as Taliban take over the country
The Guardian, 16/08/2021: Expected Afghan influx reopens divisions over refugees in Europe
The Local (Italy), 18/08/2021: ‘No time to lose’: How is Italy responding to the Afghan refugee crisis?
El País, 19/08/2021: Spain receives the first Afghan asylum seekers who will later be sent to other EU countries
RTÉ News, 19/08/2021: Afghanistan situation a 'catastrophe and nightmare' - EU
RFE/RL, 27/08/2021: Bulgaria Sends Troops To Border As EU Braces For Afghan Migrant Flows
France24, 31/08/2021: EU pledges to help Afghanistan’s neighbours to cope with refugees
RFI News, 31/08/2021: EU to pay Afghanistan's neighbours to keep refugees
Euronews, 01/09/2021: Afghanistan crisis sparks debate over EU's military capabilities
France24, 01/09/2021: Wake-up call? Afghanistan highlights need for 'autonomous' EU military force
EUObserver, 02/09/2021: EU seeks Afghan safe passage to Pakistan
The Guardian, 02/09/2021: US withdrawal from Afghanistan will lead to EU army, says top diplomat
EurActiv, 02/09/2021: Post-Afghanistan, EU defence moves closer towards military coalitions
Associated Press, 02/09/2021: EU pushes for more autonomy amid Afghanistan fallout
Reuters, 04/09/2021: Afghanistan a wake-up call for Europe on defence, leadership - France

US Government: White House: Remarks by President Biden on the Way Forward in Afghanistan (14 April 2021)
US Government: Defense Department: News, 14/04/2021: Biden Announces Full U.S. Troop Withdrawal From Afghanistan by Sept. 11
German Federal Foreign Office: Communiqué of the Special Envoys and Special Representatives of the European Union, France, Germany, Italy, NATO, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States on the Afghan Peace Process (5 May 2021)
French Embassy in the UK: News, 07/07/2021: France calls for end to violence in Afghanistan
US Government: State Department: U.S.-Europe Communiqué on Afghanistan and Peace Efforts (23 July 2021)
NATO: News, 13/08/2021: NATO Secretary General statement on Afghanistan
European Parliament: Press Release, 16/08/2021: Afghanistan: lead MEPs demand safe departure of EU nationals and Afghan partners and urgent tackling of humanitarian crisis
Council of the European Union: Press Release, 17/08/2021: Afghanistan: Declaration by the High Representative on behalf of the European Union
NATO: Press briefing on Afghanistan by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (17 August 2021)
Council of the European Union: Press Release, 18/08/2021: Afghanistan: Joint Statement on the situation of women and girls
European Commission: Statement by Commissioner Johansson on the situation in Afghanistan at the extraordinary meeting of Interior Ministers (18 August 2021)
European Parliament: Press Release, 19/08/2021: Afghanistan: provide humanitarian help to locals, MEPs urge
NATO: Statement by NATO Foreign Ministers on Afghanistan (20 August 2021)
European Commission: Statement by President von der Leyen at the joint press conference with President Michel and Spanish Prime Minister Sánchez during the visit to the welcome hub for evacuated Afghan EU Delegation staff and their families at Torrejón Air Base (21 August 2021)
European Council: Press Release, 21/08/2021: Remarks by President Charles Michel following his visit to the Madrid’s reception centre for EU’s Afghan staff evacuated from Kabul
European Council: Press Release, 24/08/2021: Remarks by President Charles Michel following the G7 leaders’ meeting on Afghanistan via videoconference
European Commission: Statement by President von der Leyen at the joint press conference with President Michel following the G7 leaders' meeting on Afghanistan via videoconference (24 August 2021)
NATO: News, 24/08/2021: NATO Secretary General participates in G7 meeting on Afghanistan
European Parliament: Press Release, 27/08/2021: Afghanistan: Lead MEPs condemn barbaric attack at Kabul airport
NATO: News, 30/08/2021: NATO Secretary General attends virtual ministerial meeting on Afghanistan
Council of the European Union: Press Release, 31/08/2021: Statement on the situation in Afghanistan
GUE/NGL Group: News, 03/09/2021: Afghanistan: Europe cannot look the other way

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