Czech president blasts Nato as government comes under fire over evacuations from Afghanistan

Czech president blasts Nato as government comes under fire over evacuations from Afghanistan
Czech President Milos Zeman said Nato's "cowardly" retreat would lead to more international terrorism.
By bne IntelliNews August 18, 2021

Czech President Milos Zeman has lambasted Nato's ignominious retreat from Afghanistan, which led to the lightning victory of the Taliban rebels, calling on the country to focus on national defence rather than "wasting money" on the military alliance.

"The distrust towards Nato from a number of member countries will grow after this experience, because they will say if you failed in Afghanistan, where is the guarantee that you won't fail in any other critical situation?" the president said in an interview for, seen as one of the country's main websites that spreads disinformation. 

"Now that investing in Nato is kind of wasting money, our defence spending should focus on national defence, on national [military] procurement," said the president, well known for his pro-Russian views.

Zeman said Nato's "cowardly" retreat would also lead to more international terrorism.

The president's comments come as the government of his ally, populist billionaire premier Andrej Babis, has come under fire for what opposition parties call its slow and chaotic evacution mission from Kabul.

The second Czech evacuation plane brought 87 people from Afghanistan on August 17, with Czech Ambassador Jiri Baloun, Czech soldiers, Afghan collaborators of the Czech army and embassy and two Poles on board, the Czech news agency reported. The first aircraft arriving a day earlier brought 46 Czechs and their Afghan colleagues to Prague. 

According to the chairwoman of the Parliamentary Committee on Defense Jana Cernochova (Civic Democrat), the government could have acted faster. "This whole rescue operation, which we have been watching in recent days, is a manifestation of the government's amateurism and the incompetence of the invisible Minister of Defence [Lubomir Metnar, ANO party], who fell asleep again," she said, as quoted by the Czech news agency. 

"I consider it a failure that we delayed this rescue mission. Dozens of people have been helping the Czechs in Afghanistan. We have known for a long time that they will be in great danger," said chair of the Pirate party Ivan Bartos.

"The majority of the opposition clearly expresses support for helping our Afghan collaborators. There was no reason to delay [this help], and now it seems that we will not be able to help most of them," criticized chair of TOP09 Marketa Pekarova, stressing that the government did not do anything because it was worried about voters ahead of the October election. 

Social Democrat Interior Minister Jan Hamacek confirmed that Czechia will provide assistance to about a hundred locals helping the Czech embassy and army in the country, including their family members. According to the Czech NGO Vlci Maky (Poppies), there are at least five more interpreters and their families, including young children, waiting for help in Kabul.

Far-right parties such as Tomio Okamura´s SPD have, meanwhile, attacked the the government's decision to bring Afghan interpreters to Czechia. 

"If they are patriots who want freedom and democracy for their homeland, then now they should be in the Afghan army fighting the Taliban,"  said Okamura, who had opposed the Western presence in Afghanistan.

Independent radical rightwing MP Lubomir Volny, said that the Afghan interpreters should not be imported to Europe as they represent a security risk to traditional European culture. 

According to political commentator Petr Honzejk, Czech society believes that Afghanistan was not a Czech war and thus there are no moral obligations to anyone. 

“In 2015, it was said that we would not take care of refugees, because we have nothing to do with the wars in Syria and Iraq or the legacy of colonialism. We should only take care of ourselves. Exactly as Babis promises,” he wrote

He argues that the situation could now play into Babis' hands, especially if there is a wave of refugees from Afghanistan.

“Topics that seemed dead will come to life. The migration issue, also in connection with the possible rise of terrorism, will hang above us in the air again.”

“Babis' team will do everything to inflate [this issue] and extract from it what is to be possible. It can be said with certainty that [Babis´] chances to win October's election rose at the time of the fall of Kabul. As well as his chances of forming a majority coalition with other anti-immigration parties,” he concluded.