Senior British politicians have called on the government to repudiate Joe Biden’s comments on Afghanistan, saying the UK should have the courage to criticise the manner of the US withdrawal.
A defiant US president insisted on Monday night that he stood squarely behind his decision to pull forces out of Afghanistan rapidly. “After 20 years, I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw US forces. That’s why we’re still there. We were clear-eyed about the risk.”
Biden said the chaotic scenes in Kabul of Afghans clinging to planes as they took off showed why withdrawal had been necessary. “We gave them every chance to determine their own future. We could not provide them with the will to fight for that future,” he said.
The remarks drew anger and regret from a number of senior Conservatives, including Theresa May’s former chief of staff Gavin Barwell.
“After [Biden’s] speech last night, it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee,” he tweeted. “The US will remain a key ally where its vital interests are involved, but neither Democrats nor Republicans any longer believe the US should be the world’s policeman.
“The lesson for Europeans is clear. Whoever is president, the US is unlikely to offer the same support that it used to in parts of the world where its vital interests are not involved.”
Joe Biden has said that US troops in Kabul would stay long enough to evacuate American citizens and eligible Afghan allies, and warned the Taliban there would be a “devastating” response to any attempt to attack or disrupt the operation.
The US president made a televised address from the White House after a day of chaos at Kabul airport following the fall of the Afghan capital to the Taliban, in which seven people were killed during the rush towards the sole remaining exit route out of the country.
‘I stand squarely behind my decision’: defiant Biden defends withdrawal from Afghanistan – video
As insurgents took control of the city, declaring victory after 20 years of war, tens of thousands of Afghans who have been promised resettlement in the west because of their past work with or for the US, Britain and their allies remained trapped in the country and in fear for their lives, amid reports of reprisal killings.
Biden admitted his administration had been caught by surprise by the speed of the Taliban victory, which he attributed to lack of leadership from Ashraf Ghani’s ousted government and a lack of will to fight in the Afghan armed forces.
“We gave them every chance to determine their own future. What we couldn’t not provide them was the will to fight for that future,” he said.