A small number of European states remained seriously militarily committed to Afghanistan, but they are diminishing adjuncts to the US presence.
Europe’s role in Afghan security is much diminished. Of the 84,000 troops under NATO command in the country in December, 8,000 came from the UK; 3,000 from Germany; 3,000 from Italy; and 1,000 each from Poland and Romania. Most other European countries still have some personnel on the ground, but rarely more than a couple of hundred. Meanwhile, the EU’s police and rule of law mission (EUPOL Afghanistan) fields 350 personnel. EUPOL has prioritised improving the physical infrastructure for training Afghan police, including a crime management college and police staff college. However, the future of the European security presence in Afghanistan has been largely dependent on negotiations between the US and Afghanistan over the future American military presence. While NATO intends to complete its current mission in 2014, Washington has aimed to maintain some troops in the country. This US presence could provide a framework for some residual European military training activities and the continuation of EUPOL, which is currently mandated to operate until the end of 2014.
Washington and Kabul debated the precise terms of a post-NATO military presence through 2013, with the US seriously considering withdrawing entirely. By the end of the year it seemed probable that a US force would stay on, although the terms remained sensitive. Europe’s future in Afghanistan has thus depended largely on negotiations over which it had no control. The UN will remain in Afghanistan after NATO exits. A senior European official, Ján Kubiš of Slovakia, was in charge of the UN assistance mission throughout the last year, and had to make some serious financial cuts. Denmark has played a prominent role in thinking through the UN’s role after 2013. China and Russia, fearful of terrorist spillover, are likely to support any initiatives to strengthen the international presence next year. But Europe as a whole is suffering severe Afghanistan fatigue, and the EU is likely to do relatively little for a country that it once aspired to build.