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EU To Step Up Afghan Humanitarian Aid, Announces Defense Summit In 2022

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen delivers a speech at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, on September 15.

The European Union says it will step up its jointly financed humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan by a further 100 million euros ($120 million) as part of a new support package to be unveiled in the coming weeks.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen made the announcement in her annual state of the union address on September 15, telling the European Parliament in Strasbourg the 27-nation bloc "must do everything to avert the real risk that is out there of a major famine and humanitarian disaster."

The new promise comes as Afghanistan faces a looming major humanitarian crisis after the Taliban toppled the Western-backed government in Kabul a month ago.

The EU's executive has already quadrupled its humanitarian aid to the war-torn and drought-stricken country for this year to 200 million euros ($236 million) while freezing payments from its much larger budget for development.

Individual member states are also making donations to Afghanistan.

Earlier this week, an international donors conference ended with pledges of $1.2 billion in aid for Afghanistan as United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres pleaded that the Afghan people "need a lifeline."

In her address, von der Leyen said Europe will seek to boost its own military capacity and cooperation following the rapid collapse of Afghanistan's government at the end of a 20-year U.S.-led military mission in Afghanistan and the chaotic evacuation of tens of thousands of foreigners and at-risk Afghans from Kabul airport.

'Everyone Was Displaced': Humanitarian Crisis Looms After Aid Groups Leave Afghanistan
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The former German defense minister said the EU should be able to intervene militarily without the help of the United States but has lacked the political will to do so.

"You can have the most advanced forces in the world, but if you are never prepared to use them, what use are they?" von der Leyen asked lawmakers.

"What has held us back until now is not just shortfalls of capacity, it is a lack of political will."

She announced that French President Emmanuel Macron will convene the "summit on European defense" during France's six-month presidency of the bloc, starting in 2022, saying, "It is time for Europe to step up to the next level."

Paris has been leading the push for the EU to develop more autonomous military capacities alongside NATO.

But some of the bloc's nations that are also members of the alliance, particularly in Eastern European states more exposed to Russia’s threats, fear such a move could undermine ties with the United States.

With reporting by AFP and dpa
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