Introduction Afghanistan represents one of the most complex conflict settings the EU has engaged in through its Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP), but also through its range of political and economic instruments. In addition to fighting a growing insurgency, international engagement also focuses on good governance, institution building, and economic development in a country that is poor, ethnically diverse and marked by decades of conflict. After the fall of the Taliban in 2001, Afghanistan and the international community faced the challenge of building sustainable state structures and institutions. The 2001 Bonn Agreement subsequently set out a process for drafting a new constitution and for holding presidential and parliamentary elections. Hamid Karzai was elected President in 2004, and the parliamentary elections of 2005 formally concluded the Bonn Process. A UNmandated peacekeeping force, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), initially tasked with providing stability in Kabul was brought under NATO command in 2004 and since 2006 has operated throughout the country. Despite international efforts of the past decade, however, internal instability persists and the security situation in the country has deteriorated significantly since the start of international engagement in the country’s reconstruction. The increasing focus on instability in Pakistan and its link to the conflict in Afghanistan further illustrates the complexity of the political and security situation in the country and its immediate neighborhood. Beyond operating in a complex local but also regional conflict setting, the EU’s engagement in Afghanistan is also taking place under an overall military and political lead of the United States (US). An analysis of the EU’s evolving range of activities and policies in the country, therefore, raises two separate yet interrelated issues: the manner and extent to which EU activities in Afghanistan contribute to the country’s reconstruction; and the EU’s position as a political and security actor in a US-led setting. This chapter analyzes the evolution of EU engagement in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban. It evaluates EU policies in Afghanistan from the standpoints of impact and effectiveness in terms of the actual conflict setting, but also the EU’s global role. While the EU has applied a number of its conflict prevention and crisis management instruments, this chapter argues that while EU policies in Afghanistan have had an impact,
this impact has been restricted on account of the conflict setting but also the EU’s international political standing and its representation in Brussels as well as in the field. Limitations arise from the scale of commitments, lacking political leverage and strategy, but also from EU member states prioritizing their transatlantic rather than European commitments. This further fragments EU presence and negatively affects the EU’s impact. Operating in a US-led intervention thus raises questions not just over the EU as an actor in crisis management but also the EU’s position in the broader transatlantic security relationship alongside NATO and individual member states. The chapter argues that in Afghanistan, the EU has fallen victim to unrealistic expectations. This shows that the EU is some way away from representing a coherent actor in this particular conflict setting – nor can it expect to reach equal footing with the US in the transatlantic political and security space.