The Taliban* captured Kabul on Sunday, effectively proclaiming its rule across Afghanistan, as former President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.
UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said on Thursday that the West’s “resolve” is now seen as weak by its adversaries following the military withdrawal from Afghanistan as the Taliban returned to power on Sunday. The defence secretary added that he was really uneasy about what had transpired.
“What I’m uncomfortable with is that we have a world order now, where resolve is perceived by our adversaries as weak, the West’s resolve,” Wallace told the BBC.
The West’s military engagement in Afghanistan lasted nearly 20 years and cost taxpayers from NATO countries trillions of dollars. Thousands of soldiers from the US and other NATO member states died as a result of the war, which was fought to drive the Taliban out of power over its links to al-Qaeda. But as the US and its allies announced that they were withdrawing the troops from the war-torn country, the Taliban quickly moved to recapture its positions.
The apparent failure of the West’s efforts in Afghanistan was particularly useful for Russia, the UK’s “adversary”, Wallace told LBC radio:
“That is something we should all worry about: if the West is seen not to have resolve and it fractures, then our adversaries like Russia find that encouraging.”
Speaking about the chaotic situation at Kabul Airport, as thousands of “desperate” people rushed to leave the country, Wallace said that the Taliban was letting “everyone” through to the processing centre, including the West’s personnel. He added that the UK was planning to call some 2,000 people in the next few days, urging them to leave Afghanistan.
“The airport is now being run by the United States,” the defence secretary clarified. He said that Britons would stay at the airport as long as the US forces continued to manage it.
Wallace said, however, that the countries can’t take unaccompanied minors at Kabul airport over reports that there have been babies handed over to soldiers.
Meanwhile, the defence secretary argued to the media that the UK has started to “invest in third country hubs in the region” to help process Afghans.
As of Wednesday, the UK has evacuated some 300 people from Afghanistan in the hope that it would evacuate some 6,000 to 7,000 British nationals and eligible Afghan staff in the next days.
The US said that it had flown some 6,000 people so far but thousands of American and tens of thousands of Afghans were still waiting to depart for the United States, due to their work with the US mission.
Taliban’s Full Takeover ‘Highly Unlikely’
In April, US President Joe Biden pledged to pull out the remaining troops from Afghanistan by 11 September 2021 but then reduced the deadline to the end of August. The president still argued back in July that the likelihood of the Taliban controlling the whole country was “highly unlikely”.
In a new interview with former Democratic advisor George Stephanopoulos, Biden said that there’d been no way to withdraw troops from Afghanistan “without chaos ensuing”.
The president now believes that US troops may stay in Afghanistan past the 31 August deadline to help evacuate all Americans from the country.
*The Taliban is a terrorist organisation banned in Russia and many other countries