UK struggles for influence as Afghan crisis strains US ties

Prime News, International (London), August 24:- The messy exit of Western military forces from Afghanistan and the swift takeover of the country by the Taliban has stunned officials in Britain and strained the U.K.’s “special relationship” with its most important ally, the United States.

London’s powerlessness, so far, to change Washington’s course also is a blow to the U.K. hopes that an assertive “Global Britain” will be a major global player in the wake of its exit from the European Union.

The main stumbling block ahead of an emergency summit of Group of Seven leaders on Tuesday is a deadline for the U.S. effort to evacuate thousands of Americans, Afghans, and others from Kabul. U.S. troops are scheduled to end their mission on Aug. 31, and Britain wants an extension.

President Joe Biden left open that possibility, but the Taliban call the date a “red line,” saying that prolonging the American presence would “provoke a reaction.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has spoken to Biden only once in recent weeks — two days after the Taliban took Kabul — and called the virtual G-7 meeting in hope of having some impact on the chaotic course of events. Britain currently holds the presidency of the club of wealthy nations.

British officials acknowledge the limits of their influence, saying the airlift will end when American troops depart.

“We have previously spoken to other NATO countries about staying, and that didn’t prove to be a viable option,” said Johnson’s spokesman, Max Blain.

“We are going to need to leave the airport at the same time as the Americans.” Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, who has called the U.S. deal with the Taliban that set the Aug. 31 deadline a “mistake,” struck an almost pleading tone, saying that if Biden extended the operation “even by a day or two, that will give us a day or two more to evacuate people.”

“Because we are really down to hours now, not weeks, and we have to make sure we exploit every minute to get people out.” (MR, Inputs: Agencies).


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