The Taliban’s blitzkrieg victory in Afghanistan is likely to be a turning point in Western interventions. After 20 years of conflict and two trillion dollars invested, American troops leave the country defeated , in the middle of a chaotic evacuation . Undoubtedly, the situation is marked by humanitarian urgency, but also by the impact on security and the fight against terrorism .
The French authorities follow this second point especially closely. Five Afghans evacuated from Kabul are under surveillance by the security forces, and one of them has been detained for his alleged links to the Taliban. In addition to the arrival in Europe of radical Islamists , there is concern about the influence of the Taliban victory in the Sahel (Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger and Mauritania).
France has been present in that area since 2013 without having managed to stabilize it or defeat local jihadist groups. The longevity and fatigue generated by Operation Barkhane favor comparisons with Afghanistan.
The leader of the Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims (GSIM) -a local branch in the Sahel of Al Qaeda-, Iyad Ag Ghali, congratulated himself on the advance of the Afghan insurgents. A few days before his entry into Kabul, he paid tribute to the “Islamic emirate of Afghanistan, following the withdrawal of the US occupation forces and their allies.” A defeat for the United States that, according to the jihadist leader, “is the result of two decades of patience.”
After eight years of military deployment, the intervention in the Sahel generates increasing doubts among the French authorities and civil society. With 4,250 dead, 2020 was the bloodiest year in that area. And 2021 follows a similar trend. President Emmanuel Macron announced in June the end of Operation Barkhane and the “profound transformation” of the military presence.
At the end of the year, the partial withdrawal of the 5,000 French soldiers will begin . “But this is not a true withdrawal. There will continue to be air support and the presence of other European troops,” Dorronsoro recalls. Between 2,500 and 3,000 French soldiers will continue to be deployed in the framework of an international counterterrorism operation.
“Without international support, the Malian state will end up sinking,” warns this expert, who recalls that there has been “a progressive disappearance of the state administration in Mali, in the same way that happened in Afghanistan.” This administrative weakness and almost chronic corruption have not been solved after the military coup in Bamako last summer.
As happened with Washington in Kabul, “the French have failed to apply counter-insurrection and state building policies, ” says Dorronsoro. That is, the construction of new democratic and liberal governments based on the Western bombings.
This university professor considers that one should reflect on the use made of international economic aid , since “instead of pacifying conflicts in the most unstable regions, they tend to accentuate them.”
With the American defeat in Afghanistan, the myth of Western wars to promote democracy has been more than questioned. And that also affects France’s role as a supposed North African peacemaker.