Following the United States on deadline withdrawal from Afghanistan that left many evacuees still stranded in the country, UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace shared his disappointment in an interview on September 1.
Afghanistan’s rapid collapse to the Taliban left Western countries which had invested two decades into the area dumbfounded and unable to react, consequently leading to chaotic rescue attempts that could not secure every citizen legitimately able to leave the country.
In an interview with Spectator magazine, Wallace said, “it is obvious that Britain is not a superpower. But a superpower that is also not prepared to stick at something isn’t probably a superpower either. It is certainly not a global force, it’s just a big power.”
His remarks of a superpower country were suspected to relate to the United States. Still, an insider corrected that the British minister emphasized the importance of political resolve over military strength, according to the Guardian.
According to Reuters, Britain had tried to convince the United States to extend the August 31 rescue deadline, but the Biden administration decided to stick with its plan.
The western military had stopped their evacuation flights before the last U.S. troops left Kabul airport on the due date for safety measures.
The Guardian said that the Defence Secretary had wanted the United States to hold back their military withdrawal plan since the Trump administration. But with the U.S. determined to pull out from Afghanistan, the UK, even despite its desire to stay, had no other choice than retreat.
England’s Defence Secretary then turned to contrast allegations of intelligence assessment failure, which would not expect the Taliban to take over Afghanistan at least by next year, per the Guardian.
“I’ve already seen some lines about the failure of intelligence,” Wallace said. “History shows us that it’s not about failure of intelligence, it’s about the limits of intelligence.”
“When the Soviet Union crumbled, when Libya collapsed, when the actual moment came in Afghanistan, intelligence hadn’t failed. It was just limited, as it always is at the very end,” he argued.
The Guardian noted reports had said the U.K’s Foreign Office had neglected thousands of emails from MPs and NGOs about urgent cases of Afghans trying to flee from Kabul, which Wallace declined as well.
“All of us have big email inboxes, we have already analysed ours, we’ve sent defence intelligence analysts around Whitehall to help deal with that,” he said. Their endeavor had “got to the point where I recognised the names being circulated because so many people were emailing the same person,” he added.
Wallace said he had already foreseen the Taliban’s swift conquest since July and planned to have the U.K. begin their evacuation effort at that point.