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EU as a crisis manager: Lessons from the evacuation of Kabul

The chaotic Western evacuation from Afghanistan in the summer of 2021 highlighted grave US and European failures in anticipation and coordination. It also projected the image of Europe as incapable of deciding and acting by itself when faced with a security emergency.

Although Europe’s security debate has moved on to the bigger and more pressing challenges of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, this Project aims to revisit the Afghanistan evacuation to highlight what operational conclusions the EU must draw while implementing the Strategic Compass.

While it is unlikely Europeans will face “another Afghanistan” in the near term, similar cases or other evacuation scenarios, for instance, in Africa or the Middle East, have the potential to emerge, as seen recently in Sudan. More broadly, the EU must consider a range of crisis management scenarios: European soldiers or citizens needing evacuation from failing states or war zones; military support for humanitarian assistance or disaster relief; or even short-term stability support for governments and initial entry missions.

The Project aims to:

(1) Analyse major decision moments of the Kabul evacuation in the spring and summer of 2021 and assess the main factors contributing to Europe’s failures in anticipation, planning, and execution.

(2) Provide recommendations with regard to the EU’s preparedness and crisis management architecture in the context of the Strategic Compass, including the EU’s monitoring and decision-making capacity and preparations for an EU Rapid Deployment Capacity.

Initial research on this topic was commissioned by the Green Group in the European Parliament.




Associate Director and Head of Europe's Political Economy programme
International negotiations, trade, EU’s international role, security and defense, single market, digital policies, EU governance and interinstitutional relations, future of Europe
Policy Analyst
European security and defence policies, Middle East political and security issues, EU-Middle East relations, Black Sea security developments, hybrid threats

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