Twenty-one years ago, Western powers led by the US started to engage in Afghanistan militarily and politically to reform the country according to "Westernised" ideals. After the Bonn Agreement, two realities were created: whereas on the one hand Afghan society received aid from third countries which were actively working on the ground, on the other hand, the Taliban formed a parallel structure that matured over the years and eventually ended up regaining control of the country. Whilst one could think that systematic errors were the result of inefficiencies perpetrated over time, they were already present from the beginning and grew larger. In fact, the failure of nation-building started much earlier than the summer of 2021. As for the EU, it has never been the protagonist behind the short-lived democratisation of Afghanistan, but it targeted the country mainly with humanitarian missions. To understand the reasons why these missions were not successful and how they fostered a sequence of miscalculations and mistakes that developed either inside the Union or as a consequence of exogenous hurdles, it is fundamental to learn the social, ethnic, religious, geographical, and political context of Afghanistan.
On the 15th of September 2021, during the annual State of the Union speech in front of the European Parliament (EP) in Strasbourg, the European Commission (EC) President Ursula von der Leyen commented on the recent events in Afghanistan, which culminated in the toppling of the Presidency of Ashraf Ghani after the conquest of Kabul by the Taliban. The crisis was exacerbated by the end of the Western military missions in the country, Operation Freedom’s Sentinel (the U.S. mission which replaced the previous Operation Enduring Freedom in 2015) and the NATO-led multinational Resolute Support Mission, which had operated in Afghanistan since 2015 as the successor of the International Security Assistance Force.
Since 1959, the German Army had its troops deployed to more than fifty countries, following the most extended deployment in Afghanistan in the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission since 2002. German soldiers have a long and outstanding history of operating under diffi-cult and dangerous conditions. The stress that soldiers initially experience is categorised as traumat-ic stress, derived from battle exposure in hostile environments, where land forces get injured or killed in all likelihood. Key characteristics of Afghanistan’s security architecture are the multiple security challenges emanating from the weak and unstable government that fuelled the political con-flicts in hostile environments, which are seen as hotbeds for terrorists.