Picture: REUTERS/JAVIER BARBANCHO
Picture: REUTERS/JAVIER BARBANCHO

Nato warned that militants could join migrants fleeing Afghanistan, potentially adding to security threats for Europe and the US after the American withdrawal from Kabul earlier this week.

“We have put in place measures to avoid that, but in big numbers it’s a risk,” Stefano Pontecorvo, Nato’s senior civilian representative to Afghanistan, said in a Friday interview, referring to militants trying to use refugee flows to infiltrate Western countries. “I am sure it’s the case.” 

The EU is eager to stem migration from Afghanistan and has cited the potential security threat. So far about 500,000 people have been displaced in Afghanistan in 2021, but there hasn’t been evidence of people entering neighbouring countries, nor has there been significant movement towards the bloc, according to an EU diplomatic note seen by Bloomberg.  

Pontecorvo, who took part in the effort to evacuate Afghan civilians from Kabul in August, said the end of the American presence is expected to free up IS-K territorial claims in the country. “That is a risk that the Taliban will have to deal with,” he said. 

‘Soul searching’

While Nato could be involved in assisting with the IS-K threat, Pontecorvo conceded that the role of the alliance will be subject to “a lot of soul searching and questions” after the chaotic withdrawal of Western forces. “Nato is pretty rock-solid but there are a lot of lessons that can be learnt.”

EU member states have also raised similar concerns about the risk of Afghanistan becoming a harbour for terrorist groups under the Taliban.

Separately, the EU is considering establishing some kind of joint European presence in Afghanistan as the bloc works to assess conditions for future engagement with the Taliban, the EU’s top foreign policy official, Josep Borrell, said on Friday.

The tentative move by foreign ministers is an attempt to physically fill the gap left by several EU nations being forced to follow the US evacuation out of Afghanistan, as the bloc seeks to craft a strategy of its own for future ties to the Taliban.

Bloomberg News. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

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