By Andrew Allison, Head of Campaigns
The UK stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States after the 9/11 terrorist attacks almost 20 years ago. 457 members of our armed forces were killed in Afghanistan, and many thousands more suffered horrendous life-changing injuries. I have never served in the armed forces, and have the utmost respect and admiration for those who do. In a united response, veterans have condemned the withdrawal as a "betrayal", and when they speak, I listen.
Pres. Biden has behaved in the most deplorable way. In his television address on Monday evening, he said that he had two choices: withdrawal or committing thousands of more troops. That is simply not true. NATO troops have not been in a combat role for many years. The training of Afghan forces could have continued, and the U.S. could have continued providing air support. Biden also attacked Afghan troops and accused them of cowardice. Again, this is not true. Almost 70,000 Afghan troops have died over the years. They were told by their leaders not to fight, and those same corrupt leaders took their wages leaving those soldiers with nothing. When the United States withdrew air support, the game was always up.
Biden blames everyone else for this mess, but the blame lies firmly with him. And he has emboldened not only the Taliban - China and Russia are salivating at the withdrawal of America from the world stage. China will target Taiwan knowing that America will not lift a finger to help the Taiwanese. Putin knows that Biden will not stop him invading Ukraine, and neither will the spineless EU, either.
Boris Johnson does not come out of this smelling of roses, either. Once the United States decided to pull-out of Afghanistan in this cack-handed way, there was very little that we in the UK could do, but my biggest criticism of Johnson is that he never challenged Biden. He didn't present a robust defence of the alternative approach. And when he addressed the House of Commons on Wednesday he looked like he had just fallen out of bed. He did manage to comb his hair later in the day, but I am sure that I am not the only one who expects our Prime Minister to look the part when he is addressing such an important subject. I have a canvass print of Margaret Thatcher on the wall in my office. I am looking at it as I write. She is sorely missed.
This mess is much worse than Vietnam. Vietnam was a local problem. Biden's withdrawal from the world stage has worldwide reverberations. No sane person thinks that the Taliban has changed its spots. Already it is seeking out those who have helped coalition troops. There will be mass murder. It has promised to uphold human rights under Sharia Law. We all know what that means. Terrorists will be welcome once again and the safety of all of us in the West is at risk.
Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/48651174747