President Klaus Iohannis greeted the return of 15 Romanians evacuated from Afghanistan on Saturday. He said efforts to rescue other nationals trapped in the war-torn country would continue.
After 20 years of war, the Taliban have swept to victory in Afghanistan. The group completed their shockingly swift advance across the country in a matter of days.
Beyond the immediate security crisis, Afghanistan’s rapid unraveling has done „fundamental damage” to Western credibility, one top EU official said this week.
NATO allies around Europe and beyond have scrambled to send military aircraft to Kabul airport to pull its citizens, and vulnerable Afghans, out of the country.
Romania’s president sent a military aircraft to Afghanistan at the beginning of the week to airlift Romanians and other nationals.
The deteriorating security situation after the Taliban takeover meant only a handful of people could board the plane at a time. A single Romanian traveled on the first rescue flight.
“I welcome home the 15 Romanians who were evacuated,” Mr. Iohannis said on Saturday as the group arrived in Bucharest.
He said a government crisis cell set up in Bucharest on August 13 to handle the situation in Afghanistan had arranged for a further 30 nationals to be airlifted this week by Romania’s partners.
The sudden Taliban takeover has caused widespread dismay in the U.S. and across Europe.
“Let me speak clearly and bluntly. This is a catastrophe,” said Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign policy chief on Thursday in an address to the European Parliament.
Romania was one of NATO’s European members that invested substantial resources and manpower in the 20-year- nation-building project in Afghanistan.
Post-Cold War prestige
It earned praise from allies for its efforts. The U.S.-led mission conferred a level of post-Cold War prestige.
Romania sent its first troops there in 2002, a year after the US toppled the Taliban regime in Kabul in retaliation for its support of the Al Qaeda terrorists that toppled New York’s World Trade Center, killing nearly 3,000 civilians.
Since then, more than 32,000 Romanian troops have served under the NATO umbrella.
“Our presence in Afghanistan brought us respect from our allies and coalition partners, as well as from the international community,” said Mr Iohannis a month ago.
Romanian military personnel
Twenty-seven soldiers died and more than 200 Romanian military personnel were injured in the mission.
Most casualties were a result of the Taliban targeting foreign troops and Afghan civilians.
Besides the stunning defeat of the NATO-backed Afghan government, there are questions about West’s involvement in the Afghan war.
The Biden administration has been stung by criticism that it was caught off guard by the rapid Taliban advance. Critics say it as too eager to proceed with the withdrawal despite warnings from the Pentagon and intelligence officials.
Norbert Röttgen, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the German parliament, told Politico. “This does fundamental damage to the political and moral credibility of the West.”