Biden Rattles U.K. With His Afghanistan Policy


“The lesson for the U.K. is that interdependence must not become overreliance,” said Mr. Tugendhat, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. “We are better partners to others if we have options and can help shape decisions.”

Britain’s defense secretary, Ben Wallace, and some British generals had been vocal in their criticism of the American policy, dating back to Mr. Trump’s outreach to the Taliban and his initial announcement of an American withdrawal in February 2020.

Mr. Wallace has said Britain sounded out other NATO members about the possibility of organizing a stabilization force in Afghanistan after the United States left. That idea went nowhere, and even if it had, security experts said a NATO force without American participation would never have been sufficient to hold off the Taliban insurgency, given the massive air power required.

Mr. Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, pointed out that all NATO members were consulted and had “signed up” to the American timetable for withdrawing from Afghanistan.

“I’m a soldier,” said Mr. Wallace, who served as a captain in the British Army, in an emotional radio interview on Monday, in which he seemed near tears at the prospect of some British allies not being able to get out of Kabul, the Afghan capital. “It’s sad that the West has done what it’s done.”

But there are few signs that Mr. Wallace’s boss, Mr. Johnson, shares his commitment to the Afghan project. In recent remarks, he echoed Mr. Biden’s sense of futility, saying, “We’ve known for a long time this was the way things would go.” Last summer, he called Afghanistan the “chronicle of an event foretold.”

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Mr. Johnson has avoided any direct criticism of Mr. Biden. A senior official in Downing Street said on Tuesday that the United States remained a vital British ally, however difficult the circumstances in Afghanistan.


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