While they are expending significant troops and treasure in Afghanistan alongside the US, Europeans do not have their own strategy and the cooperation is entirely driven by Washington.
EU institutions and virtually all member states are involved in Afghanistan. Collectively, they spend around €1 billion annually, they launched an EU police mission (EUPOL-Afghanistan) in 2007 (see component 63), and many are involved in a shooting war through NATO operations. Still, there is no strong common European vision for the region and there are no substantial objectives that Europeans want to get from their co-operation with Americans. Europeans are, in general, united: at a superficial level by their stated objective of “Afghanization” of governance and security, as outlined at the January 2010 London Conference; at a more profound level by their primary motivation for being in Afghanistan (largely as a sop to their American ally); and most importantly by their desire to leave as soon as it is politically feasible, given the pressure of public opinion.
A few years ago, most Europeans were pushing Americans in various directions – for example, towards a regional approach and an emphasis on development, with more attention given to the protection of civilian populations, etc. These recommendations were at least partly followed by the US and included in the new American strategy announced in 2009 – but many observers pointed out that they came too late. In 2010, the military operations were largely Americanized by the surge, which has marginalised European influence, and the EUPOL mission has had little, if any, benefit. There is now a soft consensus among Europeans to stay the course, deflect new American demands (Europeans reacted positively to the surge but provided significantly less than the 10,000 troops asked for by the US), and hope to be politically able to leave the country in 2014. In other words, in spite of the significant efforts Europeans have made in Afghanistan, the cooperation with Washington is largely driven by Washington.