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SECURITY > Self-Defense Forces

Turmoil in Afghanistan demonstrates Japan’s inability to defend its own people 

  • August 20, 2021
  • , Nikkei
  • JMH Summary

Nikkei wrote that Japan was the only country among the G7 nation that did not dispatch a plane to the international airport in Kabul on Monday to evacuate its nationals following the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on Tuesday that 12 staffers at the Japanese Embassy in Afghanistan had evacuated to Dubai on a military plane of a “friendly nation.” They reportedly left Kabul on a British aircraft, which was the first of the countries from which Japan had sought assistance to depart. However, the ministry did not refer to the UK by name in its announcement out of concern that disclosing the name could lead to a barrage of requests for help from the UK. 


The paper wrote that Foreign Minister Motegi instructed ministry officials on Aug. 12 to start planning to evacuate embassy personnel and that Japan initially considered sending an SDF plane to Kabul based on its experience of sending an SDF transport plane to South Sudan in 2016 to evacuate embassy personnel there in accordance with the SDF Law that allows Japan to protect and transport Japanese nationals during overseas emergencies. However, with the situation in Afghanistan deteriorating rapidly, the ministry realized there was not enough time to fully review the safety of the possible evacuation operation and hold sufficient preparatory discussions with the ruling parties. A senior ministry official said the ministry chose the option that would enable it to evacuate the embassy personnel swiftly and securely because it could have taken a week to complete the process of sending an SDF plane.  


The paper wrote that Japan has developed its security policies based on the presence of the United States. For example, the SDF’s defensive strategy largely focuses on holding out until U.S. troops arrive and this is why attention has been focused on whether Article 5 of the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, which stipulates the United States’ obligation to defend Japan, applies to the Senkaku Islands. The paper claimed that the turmoil in Afghanistan has demonstrated Japan’s inability to evacuate its own people and that although Japan’s alliance with the U.S. will continue to underpin Tokyo’s security policies moving forward, it may become necessary for Japan to explore what it can do to defend its own people and territory without depending on the United States. 

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