Lawmakers in the United Kingdom are condemning President Biden for his botched withdrawal from Afghanistan and Prime Minister Boris Johnson for going along with it. Parliament was recalled from its summer recess to discuss the collapse of the Kabul government nearly twenty years after British troops joined American and other coalition forces in toppling the Taliban regime which has now retaken the country.
British lawmakers attack Biden withdrawal
Lawmakers from both of the major parties attacked the Prime Minister for agreeing to the disastrous withdrawal plan arranged by the Biden Administration.
Johnson argued that he had no choice but to accept the Biden plan, pointing out that refusal to follow would have meant that the United Kingdom would be forced to shoulder most of the burden of the occupation alone.
Some European lawmakers and military leaders have argued that the other NATO countries could have committed to working together to fill the vacuum in Afghanistan left by the American withdrawal.
The prime minister disputed this by claiming that the British public would be no more enthusiastic about an indefinitely continued military presence in Afghanistan than the American public has been.
Like the United States, the United Kingdom has sent a large contingent of soldiers to Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul to secure the evacuation of Western civilians and Afghans with legitimate asylum claims.
There was scant sympathy in parliament for Biden and his own decision making; much of the debate focused instead on the fact that Johnson had felt compelled to agree to such a disastrous plan.
Forced to follow the United States?
British lawmakers, including former Prime Minister Theresa May, expressed concerns about the extent to which the United Kingdom is following the lead of the United States on important foreign policy decisions.
With criticism for Biden so widespread, many in parliament wondered why the United Kingdom has been allowed to become so dependent on American leadership abroad.
A revival of British naval and air power would require a massive investment. Without that investment, however, the United Kingdom would continue to be limited in its ability to project power globally independent of the United States.
The British have a long and bloody history of involvement in Afghanistan but the world has changed enormously since the last of the Anglo-Afghan Wars more than a century ago.
A commitment by Boris Johnson and other European leaders to maintain a military presence in the country following the American withdrawal may have propped up the Afghan government, but it would have been a continuously expensive and likely unpopular occupation.
British lawmakers and other allied leaders are increasingly realizing that the United States is not nearly as reliable on the global stage as it once was. American friends abroad may be forced to look to their own strength in the coming years.