Afghanistan stay information: British troops will finish Kabul evacuation operation at the moment, says armed forces chief | World information
In many ways [Boris] Johnson’s hands are, of course, tied by his heavy dependence on the Americans. Joe Biden’s refusal to postpone his political engagement until the August 31 withdrawal deadline has driven events, though the U.S. president’s failure to keep allies like Britain informed has left many of them with a bitter taste.
But while Biden’s boast at the G7 summit in Cornwall – “America is back” – sounds hollow, Johnson’s own “Global Britain” mantra has also been brutally exposed. The prime minister’s major failure this week was not the postponement of Biden’s deadline, but rather the lamentable lack of specific commitments on issues such as foreign aid. We do not yet have a detailed “roadmap” for the G7’s policy on Afghanistan.
Before the virtual meeting, Johnson had explicitly said that he wanted other nations to “fulfill Britain’s obligations” in relation to development. But after that there were no such specifics, just vague ambitions. Perhaps one reason was that the UK had forfeited any hope of global aid leadership when it decided last year to actually cut funds to Afghanistan only to realize this summer that it needed to restore them.
Although Dominic Raab has stressed that he started contingency plans in April, he had to admit that he was surprised by the speed of the Taliban’s takeover. Raab is facing a very difficult meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committee next week, not least because he admitted “in retrospect” that he should have come home earlier from his vacation in Greece after the fall of Kabul. In contrast to Defense Minister Ben Wallace, who is viewed by MPs from all sides as accessible and bipartisan, Raab is regarded as aloof and defensive.
MEPs are also increasingly angry with the Interior Ministry for not preparing their own briefings on how to deal with voters and relatives who are desperate to flee Afghanistan. Stella Creasy tells me, “The ministers are telling the press that the evacuation is over, but they can’t even bother to speak to those dealing with these desperate people to help them with what next has to be done. “
The UK’s lack of engagement also angered the Pakistani government, say other MPs. When ministers speak of “Phase 2” evacuation across land borders, they are really referring to Pakistan, but the country has not been given any real guidance on the cash assistance needed or the categorizations of national and worker status required for evacuation.
Here, too, Johnson has a broader responsibility. Insiders say Pakistan’s Imran Khan partially canceled a planned visit to the UK in July this year because he believed the Prime Minister had failed to reach a specific agreement on issues such as Afghan refugees.
The enormous cost of money and life, British and Afghan, deserve a full lessons learned balance sheet. As we pull up the drawbridge at Kabul Airport, today’s British losses only add to that moral imperative.