Mr Haddad sees no fear that Washington will renege on its commitment to NATO’s collective defense. “But there is a message to Europe that there is no appetite from the United States to intervene in neighborhood disputes that could impact Europe,” he said. .
Anna Wieslander, Swedish defense analyst and director for Northern Europe at the Atlantic Council, sees the Afghan withdrawal as a clear sign that NATO will once again focus on big-power competition with China and Russia, focusing on issues of deterrence, resilience, disinformation and climate change.
European allies were also tired of Afghanistan, she said, where the war on terrorism has become intertwined with democracy promotion, nation-building and social reform. “But NATO is not a development aid organization,” she said.
The withdrawal fiasco will rekindle the strategic autonomy argument, but the best outcome, she said, would be “a European pillar within NATO” which could – with major investments – provide part of the strategic airlift, surveillance, reconnaissance, and command and control that only the Americans now provide. “If we want more capacity and load sharing,” said Ms. Wieslander, “this could be a useful, albeit costly, debate. “
Julian Lindley-French, a defense analyst at the Institute of Statecraft in London, says Europeans are giving a lot of “virtue signals” despite “the weakness of the European effort in Afghanistan over the past 20 years”, where most of the allies limited their operations with cautious rules of engagement.
“European weakness”, he added, “is in fact European isolationism”.
European complaints about the chaotic withdrawal are serious but could boomerang, warned Kori Schake, director of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute.
“I sympathize with European anxiety, given their dependence on the United States for the ultimate guarantee of their security, but also because it raises important questions about Biden’s judgment,” Schake said.