European Allies Fault U.S. Afghan Pullout, GOP Senator Says
(Bloomberg) -- U.S. allies in Europe see an increased risk of terrorism because of the way the Biden administration handled the withdrawal from Afghanistan, a Republican senator said after meeting officials in the U.K. and Brussels.
“The result is that we have a heightened exposure to terror now,” Senator Bill Hagerty, a former U.S. ambassador to Japan, said in an interview Sunday after returning from the 48-hour trip. The view among the officials he spoke with is that the U.S. “put the world at risk, or at least the world of our allies.”
The Tennessee Republican’s meetings in the U.K. included Defense Secretary Ben Wallace and Tobias Ellwood, the Conservative chair of the House of Commons defense committee. Ellwood, an army veteran, has called the U.K.’s own withdrawal “an operational and strategic blunder.”
“Their frustration on that end was palpable,” Hagerty said. “And the way we withdrew, we left them in a position where they could not fulfill their promises” and had to leave “their allies behind enemy lines,” he said.
President Joe Biden defended the withdrawal as the last U.S. forces left on Tuesday, saying the choice was “between leaving or escalating” and he wasn’t “going to extend this forever war.” The administration says it can counter terror risks from remote bases in the region and is committed to evacuating all U.S. citizens who want to leave Afghanistan.
Hagerty said there’s concern “that Afghanistan becomes the world’s greatest arms bazaar where our adversaries from around the globe will be able to go in to secure American military equipment that they can reverse engineer, that they can use, that they can modify.”
In Brussels, he met with German, Italian, Turkish and U.K. envoys to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. All of them told him that they want to see more consultation in the future, Hagerty said.
“They were refreshingly blunt with me,” he said. “They were very clear that the situation has handed a massive propaganda victory to our adversaries.”
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.