EKRE MP: Setting deadline for Afghanistan troop withdrawal was mistake

Leo Kunnas (right) with ERR's Aleksander Krjukov on Wednesday's edition of 'Otse uudistemajast'.
Leo Kunnas (right) with ERR's Aleksander Krjukov on Wednesday's edition of 'Otse uudistemajast'. Source: Ivar Toodo

Setting a deadline for the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan earlier this year was a mistake on the part of the United States' leadership, Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) MP Leo Kunnas says.

"In such wars, you can never say any definite terms or deadlines. It's a disastrous mistake. To say this to the Taliban, whose leaders' best-known quotes include: 'You have watches, we have time, then you are giving away practically everything in advance," Kunnas, appearing on ERR's political head-to-head broadcast "Otse uudistemajast" Wednesday, said.

Kunnas, who is also a reservist Estonian Defense Forces (EDF) officer, apparently predicted the current events in his collection of articles entitled: "Ukraina häirekell. Takerdunud rünnak II" ("Ukrainian Alarm Clock. Stuck Attack II") published in 2014, and also in a book entitled "Sõda 2023". ("War 2023") published in 2016. In both books, he predicted the re-emergence of the Taliban.

"The Taliban will take over the country relatively calmly in 2021. The country will establish an Islamist regime, but the civil war will not end, because the Afghan wing of ISIL/Daesh considers the Taliban traitors and heretics, who do not want to submit to the caliphate, and it will continue to fight them," he wrote at the time.

Kunnas said that after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the destruction or detention of the perpetrators of those attacks, with the help of human intelligence and special units, would have been an alternative for the U.S.

"Apparently, the 9/11 terrorist attacks were too much of a blow to U.S. prestige to be considered more seriously. That option would undoubtedly have been a better and more cost-effective solution for all parties to the conflict," Kunnas said in the book.

Kunnas said that there was no strong and credible government in Afghanistan, which also contributed to the current events.

"If the Afghan government had really wanted to fight for western-style democracy to the end, they would have done so, but we can see that that did not happen," Kunnas went on.

"I assume that the component of the population that would like western-style democracy in Afghanistan is a marginal minority. The vast majority are willing to live under Sharia law, rather than embrace democracy," Kunnas said.

"The Taliban will certainly re-establish an Islamic Emirate via Sharia law. To what extent and how brutally they will implement it, time will tell," he added.

Kunnas said that the situation in Afghanistan is very difficult and the Taliban cannot control the entire territory of that landlocked, tribal and mountainous state. "Certainly some regional commanders are still in control of their territory. ISL/Daesh also has a presence in Afghanistan, but not a very strong one. However, I don't think Daesh would give up the fight either. The situation will be very difficult. One thing is for sure - there is no external force which would be ready to intervene there again," said.

Speaking about Estonia's participation in the Afghanistan mission, Kunnas said that it had had no choice. "The U.S. is our most important military ally in keeping the current world order afloat. If there are setbacks in this regard, it would be bad for us," Kunnas said.

Kunnas said that leaving Afghanistan will have a destabilizing effect on the security situation in the world. He said that it is all the more important to contribute to the development of an independent defense capability within Estonia.

The MP said that China's influence in Afghanistan can also now be expected to increase, because the Taliban needs money and China needs the resources that can be found in Afghanistan.

Kunnas said that Russia has quickly started to establish relations with the Taliban, because it hopes to reduce the Taliban's threat to itself in this way. "Of course, Russia is not interested in the spread of extremist Islam to Central Asia. This is their great concern, but they see an opportunity here to reach a pragmatic agreement. The Taliban cannot be completely alone in the world," Kunnas said.

Kunnas said those Afghans who helped the EDF should be helped and, if possible, offered asylum. According to the latest information, there are 10 such people, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) said on Tuesday.


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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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