Britain urgently needs to repair its relations with its neighbours but Boris Johnson’s government is singularly ill-equipped to do so
After the rout, the recriminations. British fingers furiously jab at the Americans for a shaming scuttle from Kabul that will embolden the west’s adversaries. Sir John Major yesterday called the withdrawal of western forces a “strategically very stupid” decision. Tony Blair, the prime minister who sent British forces into Afghanistan 20 years ago, goes so far as to call the precipitous exit “imbecilic”. Number 10 has been forced to deny that Boris Johnson refers to the US president as “Sleepy Joe”, the insult minted by Donald Trump. Supporters of Joe Biden counter-accuse the British and other European countries of expecting the US to continue to expend its blood and treasure in Afghanistan when most Nato members had wound down their commitments long ago.
In Whitehall, an ugly three-way blame game rages between the Foreign Office, the Ministry of Defence and the Home Office about why the government didn’t anticipate the swiftness of the fall of Kabul or make timely preparations to help vulnerable people to whom Britain owes obligations. We’d be in a better place if they’d devoted as much energy to planning for the evacuation as they are expending on excoriating each other. There will be more finger pointing when the Commons returns tomorrow. Yet it is not buck-passing between politicians desperate to save their careers that this country needs if anything useful is to be learned from this debacle. What is required is a cool reassessment of where this leaves Britain in a perilous and unpredictable world.