UK Defence Secretary Slams 'Rotten' US-Taliban Deal, Says NATO Shunned Calls to Stay in Afghanistan
Violence in Afghanistan has been on the rise since American and NATO troops began to withdraw from the country over the past several months, in sync with an agreement reached between the Taliban and the US in Doha in February 2020.
UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has claimed that "nearly all of" NATO's member states "were not interested" in Britain's call to stay on in Afghanistan after the US withdrawal from the country.
"We tried a number of like-minded nations. Some said they were keen, but their parliaments weren't. It became apparent pretty quickly that without the United States as the framework nation it had been, these options were closed off", Wallace told the Daily Mail on Sunday.
He said the UK government was "saddened […] about all the blood and treasure that had been spent, that this was how it was ending [in Afghanistan]".
The defence secretary added that the possibility of the UK unilaterally "putting a force" in Afghanistan "was not viable" because "we [Britain] would have had to take ourselves out of a lot of other places around the world".
Wallace also slammed what he described as a "rotten deal" in reference to the agreement concluded between then-US President Donald Trump and the Taliban* last year that stipulated the withdrawal of American and NATO troops from Afghanistan within 14 months, among other things.
© AFP 2022 / THOMAS COEXBritish soldier Lieutenant-Colonel Nick Lock (2L) gathers his soldiers of the 1st Batallion of the Royal Welsh before a patrol in the streets of Showal in Nad-e-Ali district, Southern Afghanistan, in Helmand Province on February 25, 2010
British soldier Lieutenant-Colonel Nick Lock (2L) gathers his soldiers of the 1st Batallion of the Royal Welsh before a patrol in the streets of Showal in Nad-e-Ali district, Southern Afghanistan, in Helmand Province on February 25, 2010
"It saddens me that the deal picked apart a lot of what had been achieved in Afghanistan over 20 years. We'll probably be back in ten or 20 years. But acting now is not possible. The damage was done with the deal", the defence secretary argued.
Referring to the NATO pullout, Wallace asserted that "again the West has been exposed as thinking you fix problems, not manage problems".
UK General Slams British Troop Exit From Afghanistan as 'Strategic Mistake'
Wallace was echoed by General Richard Barrons, the former head of Britain's Joint Forces Command, who dubbed the current exit from Afghanistan "a strategic mistake".
"I don't believe it's in our own interest - in making that decision to leave we've not only, I think, sold the future of Afghanistan into a very difficult place, we've also sent a really unfortunate message to the West's allies in the Gulf and Africa and Asia", Barrons said in an interview with the BBC on Sunday.
The general insisted that the pullout suggests "we don't have the stomach to see these things through and we would rather leave than ensure that a humanitarian or political crisis doesn't occur".
© AFP 2022 / HOSHANG HASHIMIIn this picture taken on August 1, 2021, Afghan National Army commando forces walk along a road amid ongoing fighting between Taliban and Afghan security forces in the Enjil district of Herat province
In this picture taken on August 1, 2021, Afghan National Army commando forces walk along a road amid ongoing fighting between Taliban and Afghan security forces in the Enjil district of Herat province
Barrons also warned of possible far-reaching consequences from the withdrawal, saying, "we will run the risk of terrorist entities re-establishing in Afghanistan to bring harm in Europe and elsewhere, so I think this is a very poor strategic outcome".
The remarks come as The New York Times cited unnamed sources as saying that US President Joe Biden was informed on Sunday about the Taliban's ongoing offensive in Afghanistan and the seizure of several regional centres, but the troop pullout plan remains unchanged.
According to the sources, Biden and his advisers did not intend to change their plans to withdraw US servicemen from Afghanistan by the end of August, while the Pentagon is ready to provide Afghan authorities with the necessary resources amid the troop pullout.
7 August 2021, 17:57 GMT
In a separate development on Sunday, the Afghan Defence Ministry rejected the Taliban's statement that militants from the terrorist group had gained control over the provinces of Kunduz and Sar-e Pol as a result of heavy fighting in the area.
Last week, the Taliban announced they had seized the capital of Nimruz Province, the first provincial centre the terrorist movement has captured since 2016.
The standoff between the Afghan government and the Taliban has flared up amid the pullout of international forces from the war-torn country. The terrorist group has ramped up their advances, causing great concern among the international community.
*Taliban, a terrorist group banned in Russia and many other nations.