US President Trump’s unilateral decision to pull U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan grouped with Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis’s planned departure have sparked worry across Europe and fresh calls for greater strategic independence from Washington.
The Wall Street Journal reported that such a planned quick exit of American troops has not only surprised European diplomats who had been in talks in recent weeks with the U.S. State Department on how to jointly stabilize areas of Syria and Iraq where Islamic State extremists were uprooted, but worried them as well.
Consultation before the announcement “would have been helpful,” said German government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer on Friday, voicing a frustration expressed across Europe.
European officials say they worry that Russia and Iran will fill the gap of diminishing U.S. presence. This may also strain the trans-atlantic alliance relations.
European diplomats expressed ‘a sense of betrayal’ because Europe faces much more immediate threats from terrorists, missiles or refugees from than the U.S. does.
Syrians fleeing Islamic State and Syria’s civil war were among more than one million people who crossed Europe’s borders in 2015.
Not just that. Europeans feel that it was not just the American troops serving in Afghanistan, as Europeans have thousands of troops alongside U.S. forces as part of a NATO mission to support the fragile government and fight the Taliban.
U.S. troop withdrawal only puts the remaining forces at greater risk, as several European governments were adding troops under pressure from the U.S recently.