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Why Taliban takeover of Afghanistan should worry the Western Balkan states

As the United States started to pull its troops out of Afghanistan, the Taliban forces saw an opening to start a large offensive 1 deeper into the country, seemingly with the aim of achieving total control. This was not unexpected but what did take people by surprise was the speed and the level of organization by which the Taliban forces took over more and more provinces as well as the weakness of Afghan armed forces in attempts of stopping them. Many have raised legitimate questions whether all the time, money, and energy spent on training the Afghan forces in the past 15 years was worth it, but I will not examine the past. I’m more interested in the future of Afghanistan and what impact that future will have, if any, on Western Balkan states, particularly Bosnia and Herzegovina.

As a result of the Taliban takeover of Afghan provinces, more and more Afghan civilians become internally displaced as they flee their home villages towards the capital city of Kabul. In the case of the Taliban takeover of Kabul, which is a realistic scenario at this point, not only will we see a grave humanitarian situation as Taliban forces punish their political opponents, civil society leaders and women’s rights activists but also a new migration crisis which will inevitably be headed towards Europe.

If that happens, Afghan civilians will permanently be stuck in the Western Balkans, considering the fact that European Union closed its borders in Croatia for illegal migrants coming from the MENA region. As a consequence, the most burden of the illegal migration crisis has been carried by Bosnia and Herzegovina whose dysfunctional internal state system prevents it from placing adequate policies in place to deal with the migration crisis. For example, illegal migrants are not equally distributed across the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina 2 due to the fact that every Canton has the right to decline to open up migrant centers and shelters in their territory. Additionally, Bosnia and Herzegovina does not have an updated Migration and Asylum strategy that would serve as a guiding star in dealing with the crisis.

Consequently, only Sarajevo Canton and Una-Sana Canton (which borders Croatia), which are Bosniak-dominated Cantons, took in large quantities of illegal migrants and are barely keeping control of it. If Afghan refugees do start moving towards Europe en masse, they will inevitably end up stuck in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a country that cannot protect their basic human rights. For this reason, it is imperative that all government levels of BiH start preparing and adapting policies in place for possible future events as well as to coordinate with other Western Balkans states in order to have a unified response to the future crisis.

I truly do not understand the reasoning of the Biden administration. The “They have to take responsibility for their own country” argument 3 from President Biden is legitimate but you cannot expect to have an organized national response from a country in which the United States still has not finished the process of nation-building, not to mention that the sudden retreat of US forces demoralizes Afghan forces on the ground which are left without appropriate air support. I also understand the “end forever wars” argument but the United States cannot ignore terrorist thugs undoing 20 years of progress in the field of women’s rights and civil society. The international community cannot ignore the fact that if Kabul falls into the hands of the Taliban, Afghanistan will become a safe haven for terror organizations that may plan the next 9/11.

Also, by pulling out your forces, you are handing over the country to the influence of Russia and China who already have started negotiating with the Taliban, giving them legitimacy. If the United States is serious about great power competition, it will not give up on Afghanistan and not allow Russia and China to gain influence across South/Central Asia. Yes, mistakes were made in the past but instead of leaving, the US should stay and do better. Fight for the democratic principles they preach and for a better future for Afghanistan. Because a safe and stable Afghanistan means a safer US homeland as well as a safer Europe.

Sources

Ansari, T., Rust, M., & Mollica, A. (2021, August 13). How the Taliban Takeover of Afghanistan’s Provincial Capitals Is Unfolding. WSJ. https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-the-taliban-takeover-of-afghanistans-provincial-capitals-is-unfolding-11628890519

Monella, L. M. (2021, January 20). What are the real reasons behind Bosnia’s migrant crisis? Euronews. https://www.euronews.com/2021/01/19/what-are-the-real-reasons-behind-bosnia-s-migrant-crisis-bihac

Toosi, N., McLeary, P., & Ward, A. (2021, August 12). Biden on Afghanistan: Not my problem. POLITICO. https://www.politico.com/news/2021/08/11/biden-afghanistan-not-my-problem-503928


Footnotes

The Arab Uprisings: Causes, course and consequences

2010/2011 mark the years of the so-called Arab Uprisings, which describe the series of civic, political upheavals and demonstrations that erupted in several countries of the MENA region. The protest that shook the Arab world had widespread consequences for the region - in some countries leading to civil wars that evolved into proxy wars between global powers, leaving people displaced, wounded or dead - leading to Europe's biggest "refugee crisis" in decades. The uprisings started with the hope to achieve stable democracies and shake off authoritarian, corrupt leaders - a goal which has only in Tunisia, if at all, been reached. It remains questionable how long the conflicts will continue and whether peace can be achieved and stable democracies built anytime soon.

The End of Roe v. Wade

Reproductive rights and abortions have been a salient issue in United States politics for decades and are under constant threat. On Friday, 24 June 2022, a nightmare for many women across America became a reality: The United States Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade in a 6-to-3 ruling, thereby eliminating the constitutional right to abortion in the United States after nearly 50 years.

Sectarian staging and human life is the cost in Lebanon

Over the past two years, the minimum wage in Lebanon has fallen by 84% due to the devaluation of the Lebanese pound. The country has been facing an economic crisis, which could rank in the top three most severe crises episodes globally since the mid-nineteenth century. The crisis has left almost three-quarters of the population below the national poverty line. Nevertheless, the corrupt political regime deemed it insufficient to starve more than half of the population to death. Today, on top of medicine and gas shortage, electricity cuts and constant uncertainty, the Lebanese starve for justice.

The Transatlantic Partnership – At a crossroads, once again

2020 marks the year of the US presidential elections. After four years of the Trump Administration, the EU-Transatlantic partnership finds itself once again at a crossroads. In the past years, several discrepancies between the two global actors emerged. It remains to be seen whether the EU-Transatlantic partnership can have a revival - or if it keeps spiralling down the rabbit hole.

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