Javier Solana – Former Secretary General of NATO
The politician fears the direction that the Taliban will give Afghanistan and defends that China and Europe play a relevant role
Few people have the experience and legitimacy of
Javier Solana to analyze international politics. First he was Minister of Foreign Affairs of Spain with Felipe González, then he directed NATO between 1995 and 1999, and later the diplomacy of the European Union as High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy, until 2009. However, he is very cautious when assessing what is happening in Afghanistan and avoid “getting into puddles.”
That is why he is surprised by the controversy that a couple of his tweets have provoked: in one he wrote a harmless “Afghanistan appeals to us”, enough to provoke the ire of those who reject military interventions, and in another he considered that China’s talks with the Taliban they could be constructive. The softest thing they called him, he says, was a traitor. He flees the interviews, but agrees to speak with this newspaper.
– The world is surprised by the speed of the Taliban victory. Biden claims that the Afghan soldiers have not fought. What has actually happened?
– It is obvious that they have not fought. Or that they haven’t fought enough. Since the Taliban took control of the first provincial capital on August 6, it was clear that they had reached agreements with some of the Afghan military after the announcement of the US withdrawal. They began their offensive in the periphery, where the government was weakest, and reached Kabul very quickly.
– So there was no resistance.
– Afghanistan is a large country where there have always been very strong regional leaders who prevented the establishment of a lasting central government that governed the entire territory. They saw what was coming and that there was no other way to survive than to reach agreements with the corresponding Taliban leaders. Without foreign forces, the Government would not have lasted at all, and it has already been seen that, even after being there for 20 years, it has not lasted at all. This means that, no matter how much you want to rebuild a country, from outside and with arms it cannot be achieved.
– Will the Taliban now succeed in creating such a strong central government?
– It will depend on how the local chiefs who control some provinces behave. In any case, Afghanistan is a country where it is very difficult to maintain a central government that rules without violence.
– You do not trust your good words then.
– These Taliban can smile up to a point. They have already said that women are going to be treated according to Islamic law, which is the law of mistreatment of women. And, furthermore, they cannot manage the country because they do not control its entire territory and they do not have a budget to run it. It is going to cost them to govern without fear and force.
– Does Afghanistan mean the end of the model of military interventions to impose democracy?
– This case is very special, because it is an intervention in response to the 9/11 attacks that was voted unanimously in the United Nations. Therefore, you cannot reduce everything to a model. There are many. Afghanistan is not the same as the Balkans or Iraq, where it also intervened once with the UN and once without it. The reflection I can make is that, by force, with soldiers on the ground, we have lost in Afghanistan. But look at Ethiopia, where there is not a single foreign soldier and we have invested a lot of money to rebuild the country. Well, it is also in crisis.
The big game
– China prefers this economic model and has a lot of interest in the area. You consider it to be a positive thing.
– What I say is that you have to talk to the Chinese so that they are responsible in the area. Because I think they can introduce good sense. They are not interested in a conflict in Afghanistan, as they have the Uighurs on the other side and a close alliance with Pakistan, which is highly dependent on China and in turn exerts great influence over Afghanistan. The Chinese could enter with their military, but it has already been shown that it is not the right way and, moreover, it would go against their philosophy of non-interference.
– Will China fill the void left by the United States?
– The world is not bipolar. The European Union can also get involved and do something sensible. Not sending armed forces, but reaching regional agreements with other countries to help stabilize the area, although it will not be easy because the image of the Americans leaving and the Taliban arriving as they have done will weigh.
– But it seems that the European Union just always says that it is ‘deeply concerned’, and then does nothing.
– In these cases, you don’t have to say what you’re going to do. It is done under the table, discreetly. Saving Afghanistan is not going to be done above the table if there are no agreements of some kind with the Taliban.
– What future do you see for Afghanistan?
– In the short term, I think there will be a sense of calm that interests the Taliban, but it is difficult to know what will happen next. I don’t know if it can end up becoming a country like the United Arab Emirates or Saudi Arabia. What will never be is a democratic country like Spain or Switzerland.
“Humanitarian corridors must be agreed with the Taliban”
The world is now faced with the dilemma of what to do with the new Taliban government.
– Josep Borrell believes that dialogue should be held with its leaders. Do you agree?
– What must be done as soon as possible is to reach an agreement with them to establish humanitarian corridors, one to the airport, and others to other Central Asian countries, so that the population in danger can leave.
– Are we on the verge of a new migratory wave like the one caused by Syria?
– No. Syria is devastated, Afghanistan is not. And it is not easy to get to Europe from there.
– What responsibility do you think countries like Spain, which participated in the invasion, should assume?
– I believe that all the countries that have been present have done what they could and have done well. No outrages have been committed. The Europeans, for example, threw themselves into training the Police, which was working very well, closer to the people, until it stopped working.
– Without a doubt, Afghanistan has earned the nickname of ‘graveyard of empires’.
– It is a very complex country that is in a very delicate place. In addition, it has never been fully united because it has many factions and ethnicities, and that complicates everything. Russia left her life there. Just a little over a year after leaving Afghanistan, the Soviet Union broke up. It was the catastrophe of catastrophes.