America’s European allies are asking the Biden administration to delay the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, which some senior U.S officials had suggested could be complete by as early as July 4, to give Washington’s NATO allies more time and support to leave, according to a piece in the Wall Street Journal.

In response, American officials said that the withdrawal from Afghanistan could be delayed by two weeks or longer to assist NATO.

The Biden administration had initially said that the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan would be completed by September 11 instead of the originally agreed-upon date of May 1. Yet, military officials have said it can be completed by the summer.

However, the European Union is concerned that with the U.S.-led coalition pulling out from Afghanistan, the Taliban will capture much if not the entire country and trigger a mass exodus of Afghan refugees to Europe.

Josep Borrell, the EU's foreign policy chief said that European troops have to withdraw along with American ones from Afghanistan.
Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign policy chief said that European troops have to withdraw along with American ones. (AP photo)

“The decision has been taken and what we have to do is to face the situation that is going to be created,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said last week. “The violence in Afghanistan is increasing, and it’s clear that once the U.S. will withdraw, the European Union troops will not be able to stay.”

“We better face the future and to try to take positive decisions in order to face reality,” Borrell added.

As the coalition has been winding down its involvement in the country, the Taliban have stepped up their attacks on Afghan government facilities and troops. Despite the peace deal signed with the Trump administration that calls for peace talks and a reduction in violence between the two sides, the Taliban have increased the pressure on the Kabul government and have already taken back large swaths of the country. 

These developments will significantly impact Afghans, especially those who worked with or for the Afghan government, and women, whose rights under the Taliban will revert to medieval standards. A Taliban victory will likely cause a flood of people fleeing Afghanistan.

That is an issue for Europe as already in 2020 Afghan refugees were the second-largest group of asylum seekers arriving on the continent.

The EU is already considering refugee reform to offset what could become another crisis. Inside Afghanistan, there are 2.9 million internally displaced people. With the intensified violence by the Taliban, those numbers will no doubt increase. 

Afghan refugees in Pakistan. They are expected to flood Europe after the U.S.-led coalition leaves the country.
Afghan refugees in Pakistan. They are expected to flood Europe after the U.S.-led coalition leaves the country. (UN photo)

According to the UN Refugee Relief Agency (UNHCR), there are more than 2.5 million Afghans living abroad, making them the second-largest refugee population in the world. A piece by the EuroObserver highlighted the issue. 

“Analyzing the asylum requests received in the EU in 2020, Afghans are topping asylum requests in Austria (21.3 percent of total requests), Belgium (17.9 percent of total requests), France (13 percent of total requests), Germany (10 percent of total requests), and Greece (30 percent of total requests).

Afghans constitute 50 percent of the refugee camps’ population on the Aegean islands in Greece and, for three years in a row, Afghanistan has been the second-most important country of origin for asylum requests, after Syria.”

Meanwhile, Turkey that had initially planned on remaining in Afghanistan, as President Erdogan seeks to make the Turks a major power broker in world politics, has now informed its NATO allies and the U.S. that it is also considering withdrawing the country.

Resultantly, many European countries may reconsider whether to keep their diplomatic missions open once their troops are gone. Some analysts believe that international contractors may be hired to conduct airport security operations, but without an international security force to guarantee their safety and provide a quick reaction force (QRF), in the event of an emergency, it doesn’t appear likely that a reputable contractor will apply. 

The coalition has stuck to its pledge of “in together, out together.” So, the Biden administration will probably work with the NATO allies, which stuck with the coalition for the past two decades, to ensure everyone gets out safely.