Europe Risks New Wave of Refugees Over Civil War in Afghanistan, Danish Military Analyst Warns
© AP Photo / Mariam ZuhaibAfghan women walk on the road during the first day of Eid al-Fitr in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, May 13, 2021
© AP Photo / Mariam Zuhaib
According to David Vestenskov, the withdrawal of Western forces and the advance of the Taliban leaves the country with bleak prospects that include a fundamentalist Islamist regime or a complete chaos and a civil war in the already war-torn country.
The Taliban's advances in Afghanistan after the West's withdrawal is currently sending thousands of Afghans fleeing westward, David Vestenskov, a Defence Academy chief consultant who has been monitoring the situation in Afghanistan for ten years, told Danish Radio.
“Afghans are fleeing because the system that has been built over the past 20 years is being phased out,” he ventured. “The West chose to withdraw without any political agreements or prospects for political agreements. That leaves a security vacuum,” he said, predicting that will be exploited not only by the Taliban, but by numerous ethnic groups.
According to the UN refugee agency IOM, 30,000 Afghans flee their country each week, which is up to 40 percent more than before the international troops began to withdraw from the country. Even more are internally displaced.
This, according to Vestenskov, creates a risk of a new wave of refugees towards Europe.
“If we get to see a civil war, then anarchy will arise in many places across the country, and people will flee from it,” Vestenskov said, comparing with the situation in Syria, where over six million people are on the run, according to the UN. “A civil war with different fronts is what creates the most difficult conditions for a civilian population. And the only chances of survival may be to flee," he added.
In 2020, Afghanistan was the second-largest international provider of refugees, second to only Syria. In recent months, the situation has escalated, because the US-led Western forces that have been stationed in the country for the past two decades are on their way out.
The last Danish-deployed and other NATO forces left the country in June. With the exception of a few US units, the West has largely left Afghanistan. This, in turn, has provided opportunities for the Taliban, which is making rapid strides and taking over power in ever larger parts of the country.
According to Vestenskov, the fear is greatest among those who have worked for and supported the Western presence.
“They fear the society they may come to live under and their own security, because they have been on the side of the conflict, which now seems to be losing power”, he mused.
Vestenskov predicted that most Afghans will try to flee to neighbouring Pakistan or Iran at first. But from there, some will definitely seek further towards Europe, which is already being felt at the Turkish border. Last week, Turkish authorities reported a boat carrying more than 200 Afghan refugees heading for Europe in the Aegean Sea.
“In the short term, I have a hard time seeing any positive development, as the country is right now,” he pondered.
In the long run, however, something sustainable may come out of a civil war, as cynical as it may sound, he argued.
“The Afghans will probably have to go through an internal conflict before a sustainable power structure lands without an external actor like the West. It will force some political solutions that have more sustainable preconditions when the West is not included in the equation,” he concluded.
In 2015, at the peak of the modern migrant crisis, Europe saw a record 1.3 million asylum seekers, mostly from the Middle East and North Africa.
* The Taliban is a terrorist organisation banned in Russia