President Joe Biden took office promising that “America is back”, a vow aiming at repairing relationships with American allies after a testy relationship between former president Trump and Europe. However, the hasty and disastrous afghan retreat has led many NATO allies to openly doubting the reliability on the international stage, with much of the ire directed personally at Biden and his decision-making in the Afghan retreat.
Biden and the rest of the administration have maintained an unrepented attitude, denying that the operation has been a failure and even saying that the ensuing chaos was “unavoidable”, which is quite a contrast from the confidence the President exuded last month when saying that a Taliban controlled Afghanistan was “highly unlikely”.
While government officials in Washington D.C. think that the Kabul retreat is not a disaster, many allies of the United States have been calling the operation an unmitigated fiasco and have been doubting the reliability of American military might in security operations in the future.
It is important to remember that the United States was not the only country with active personnel in Afghanistan, with the total strength of the NATO having a 9,592 strong contingent in February 2021, out of which only 2,500 were American soldiers.
Armin Lascher, the German chancellor and conservative candidate to succeed Merkel later this year, said that the botched withdrawal was the “greatest debacle that NATO has experienced since its foundation”. Latvia’s defense minister, Artis Pabriks, said that “this kind of troop withdrawal caused chaos” and that “the West, and Europe in particular, are showing they are weaker globally”.
However, the biggest criticisms against Biden’s withdrawal are coming from one of its closest allies, the United Kingdom.
The United Kingdom was the country with the second-highest number of troops in Afghanistan, with the British Armed Forces sending more than 100,000 soldiers to the Afghan war during the 20 years of NATO operations in the country after the U.S invoked the collective defense principle outlined in Article 5 of the NATO charter.
Although Prime Minister Boris Johnson has not openly criticized Biden’s decision to withdraw and the manner the U.S. executed the operation, many members of his own party have certainly so, with some giving some very hefty criticism to Biden’s performance as commander-in-chief in particular while asking if the UK government should start questioning its overreliance on the so-called “Special Relationship”.
The most high-ranking officer of the British government who has publicly criticized the American’s decision to withdraw their troops is the Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, who called Biden’s decision “a mistake” and said that after the withdrawal “Of course Al-Qaeda will probably come back” and he has also admitted that the UK tried to convince other NATO allies to stay in Afghanistan and help stabilize the country after the U.S. withdrawal.
Lord George Robertson, who was NATO Secretary-General during the 9/11 attacks, said that the disastrous Afghan retreat was hurtful for the organization as it “weakens Nato because the principle of ‘in together, out together’ seems to have been abandoned both by Donald Trump and by Joe Biden.”
Biden was also the target of fiery criticisms during this week’s special session held in the House of Commons with Tom Tugendhat, a Conservative MP (Member of Parliament) and Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, delivering an emotional speech where he condemned Biden’s decisions and the (few) remarks he has made over the Afghan debacle.
Tugendhat, who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, said that he found “shameful” how the U.S commander-in-chief “called into question the courage of the man I fought with, to claim that they ran” adding that “those who have never fought for the colors they fly should be careful about criticizing those who have”.
He also questioned the future of British Foreign policy and who should the UK trust as allies, saying that the UK should articulate a clear strategy to “make sure we are not dependent on a single ally, on the decision of a single leader”.
Tugendhat then told the story of an Afghan man who was “begging for help” while “carrying a child who had died hours earlier into their firebase” and that there “was nothing they could do”, he finalized his speech by saying that “this is how defeats look like” when “you no longer have the choice” to help.
Biden’s chaotic retreat from Afghanistan has not only caused a political firestorm in the United States, but it has also led to key allies questioning whether America is truly back.