By William Hallowell | Editor
The fallout of the Afghanistan crisis calls into question the legitimacy of our friendship with America, and has established that Britain must think long and hard before being dragged into another US-led war.
US President Joe Biden is responsible for what is arguably the largest and most humiliating collective foreign policy disaster for the West; and evidently, without America, other NATO allies are not able to sustain enough physical and political dominance to continue to fight Islamic extremism in Afghanistan. Therefore, it would be unfair to criticise other NATO countries for withdrawing troops and resources, after America have done so.
Realistically, we cannot fight the Taliban alone. From a UK perspective, it was the logical decision for Boris Johnson to follow suit of America and also choose to pull out of Afghanistan, despite the fact that, having not withdrawn collectively, we could have prevented this humanitarian disaster – not least prevented the damage to our egos on the world stage and global humiliation of Western governments.
To not have done so would have almost certainly been more disastrous, given the decision of President Biden to retreat after twenty years of military presence there. The only other plausible alternatives for Johnson would have been to do nothing and, inevitably, see a rise in confidence and military dominance amongst Taliban fighters – and the other option would have been to supplement America’s withdrawal with British troops; however, this would have been very impractical pragmatically, and assuredly unpopular politically. So, realistically there was no way we could have sustained a dominant presence without the political and physical backing of Biden.
Therefore, whilst this has been a shameful foreign policy humiliation – and yes, failure – of the West, it was only sensible for the UK to follow America in a total withdrawal, however blatantly obvious it is that we were not ready to leave Afghanistan. After watching the chaos unfold over the last week or so, particularly considering the total panic and fear at Kabul airport and the wider area of the capital, it is indisputable that we left prematurely.
The question over the reliability of Western intelligence must also be called into question. Just a month before the fall of Western rule in Afghanistan, and the Taliban marching on Kabul, President Biden said there would be no circumstance in which, like the evacuation of Vietnam, we would see helicopters dramatically rescuing Americans from a US embassy. Yet, only a few weeks later we saw exactly that in the capital city. And, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson denied that his Government was unprepared and that it didn’t not foresee this. If this was the case, why do the scenes at Kabul airport, where UK nationals, Afghan refugees and coalition collaborators are being urgently rescued, almost resemble those of the evacuation of Dunkirk? Afghanistan may very well be Biden’s Vietnam, but this could also be Johnson’s Dunkirk.
Irrespective of the arguments for and against the war, and whether we should have entirely withdrawn or not, surely we must all agree that we are responsible for this total catastrophe and inevitable humanitarian crisis? – and, that this would have not happened, had NATO forces not abandoned the people of Afghanistan? Where is Keir ‘Captain Hindsight’ Starmer when we need him?
It is clear that President Joe Biden has damaged the ‘special relationship’ the UK has with the US as a result of all this – and it is evident that Biden had neglected to consider the ramifications of his decision to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan on our relationship, aside from his own national duty to put ‘American first’ – and his personal, longstanding anti-war sentiments towards Afghanistan.
The question now remains over how we will rekindle this friendship. Boris Johnson will, undoubtedly, be doing the bootlicking – despite how much he pines to be Britain’s twenty-first century Churchill – to resolve the damage to our historic relationship with America. But, what is surely determined is that, irrespective of individual leaders, their parties or our nations’ governments, Britain must think long and hard before it is dragged into another war led by the arrogant hubris of some perceived American military supremacy – which has now been shown not to be so supreme – and whether it is worth the political, financial and military commitment long-term, if it is to end like Iraq or Afghanistan. Retrospectively, Britain certainly won’t be dragged kicking and screaming.
Image credit: US Embassy, Jerusalem