US retreat from Afghanistan was humiliation for West, UK diplomats say

2021-08-17 21:14:57
US retreat from Afghanistan was humiliation for West, UK diplomats say

British diplomats compared the US and NATO retreat from Afghanistan and the lightning takeover of Taliban to the scale of the West's humiliation following America's defeat in the Vietnam War.

The UK diplomats also compared the withdrawal of US and Western forces from Afghanistan to the 1956 Suez Crisis, a strategic blunder which confirmed the loss of Britain's imperial power.

Photographs of a helicopter evacuating diplomats from the US embassy in the Afghan capital of Kabul were compared to those from 1975 showing a helicopter plucking diplomats from the roof of the US embassy in Saigon.

US President Joe Biden announced on July 8 that America's military campaign in Afghanistan will end on August 31. The White House said Biden made the decision after concluding it's an "unwinnable war" and one that "does not have a military solution."

But British diplomats said the Afghan debacle will undermine the West's standing in the world, and strengthen the arguments of Russia and China that the United States and its allies lack both mettle and staying power.

"We must be clear about this: this is a humiliating moment for the West," said Mark Sedwill, who was Britain's most senior civil servant and national security adviser under former Prime Minister Theresa May.

Britain has lost 457 armed forces personnel in Afghanistan, or 13 percent of the international military coalition's 3,500 fatalities since 2001.

Britain has lost 457 armed forces personnel in Afghanistan, or 13 percent of the international military coalition's 3,500 fatalities since 2001.

The British empire invaded Afghanistan twice in the 19th century and suffered one of its worst military defeats there in 1842 following the 1839-1842 Anglo-Afghan war.

The inception of the NATO mission in Afghanistan stems from the groups’ mutual defense clause, known as Article 5. The alliance has only invoked Article 5 once in its history — in “defense” of the United States after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

European officials and diplomats complained that Biden’s decision to pull out US forces from Afghanistan forced the NATO military alliance to withdraw as well, highlighting Europe’s military dependence on Washington.

Once the US decision was formalized, the UK, Turkey and Italy were keen to find a way to keep forces in Afghanistan. But this was considered impossible without the vast military infrastructure provided by the US, notably air support from the US-run Bagram air base just north of Kabul.

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