The US and UK 'special relationship' has effectively perished after Afghanistan - Patrick Mercer

LAST November President Joe Biden said: “America is back, ready to lead the world, not retreat from it… Ready to confront our adversaries and not reject our allies. Ready to stand up for our values.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and US President Joe Biden sit around the table at the top of the G7 meeting in Carbis Bay, on June 11, 2021. Photo by Leon Neal - WPA Pool/Getty Images.

In the light of the latest suicide bombings, I wonder if any US President has proved to be so profoundly, fatally wrong just a few months after taking office?

It is worth looking at that statement from the slant of a close ally and a partner in the special relationship.

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Putting the gross failures of Allied intelligence to one side, Britain wasn’t consulted about the President’s plans for the withdrawal nor the day-to-day conduct of operations.

Indeed, one of the most striking aspects that I’m hearing from soldiers who are there is that they have no confidence that their US allies (and, let’s face it, their military masters) will even be in place tomorrow.

With Britain’s costly contribution not even mentioned in Mr Biden’s speeches, and Boris Johnson pleading with him to keep his troops there a little longer being ignored, it strikes me that the only special thing is that our relationship with America has effectively perished.

And that begs the question – what are the next steps for a sovereign nation newly shorn of a tried and tested friendship?

First, I don’t believe that Ben Wallace – our Defence Secretary – tried as hard as possible to put together a ‘coalition of the willing’ to hold the ring as US power evaporated.

Instead, Mr Johnson’s been left rattling around the G7 looking for help. The G7? That bunch who guzzled cocktails and schmoozed Biden in Cornwall a few weeks ago? I don’t see them riding to the rescue anytime soon.

So, what about the EU who are always so keen to spout about their own ‘army’? If you’re talking about the mildewed marshals and generals who periodically build castles in the air … need I go on?

Similarly, why does NATO exist at all if it doesn’t step up to the plate during crises?

Wouldn’t this be a splendid moment for that organisation to show just how wrong America has been to doubt its muscle and emerge from under the US umbrella as a credible force in its own right?

All this, of course, brings our own resolve into question. We’ve got an historic and present stake in Afghanistan, not least our debt of honour to those who helped us there over the past two decades.

If ever there was an unimpeachable reason for offering safety and sanctuary to our friends, this is it. We need to get those people out – all of them – and help them here in Britain just as they stood by our boys when the bullets were flying over there.

I know that successive governments have cut our forces to a dangerously low level, but are we really in such a state that we couldn’t keep an airport open for a while longer despite the Taliban saying that ‘there will be consequences’ and more attacks from ISIS-K? Clearly, it’s not as simple as holding an airstrip or two, there are complex flight paths to be protected, crowds and a host of other issues. But, if we believe in keeping our word, then our enemies must also face brutal consequences when they attack.

I sometimes wonder, though, if we have the stomach for a fight. On the Today programme this week, the Armed Forces’ Minister was asked if he could guarantee the safety of our troops in Afghanistan. James Heappey’s incredulity – himself a former infantryman – was tangible. If we don’t have troops to face danger, then what is the point of them?

The same can be asked of our head soldier, General Sir Nick Carter, who, during an interview, suggested that the Taliban wanted an ‘inclusive’ country; that they were simple, ‘country boys’ who ‘live by a code of honour’. I’m not sure how inclusive Afghan women find the Taliban and it’s hard to see rape and slaughter as being honourable. However, I would have much preferred General Carter not to appease our enemies but to remind them of what just what British troops can do.

Yet, appeasement seems to be the order of the day. Mr Johnson’s latest offer to unlock large sums of cash for the Taliban so long as they agree to play nicely and do not get involved in any more 9/11s sounds rather like Time magazine naming Adolf Hitler ‘Man of the Year’ in 1938! No, if Mr Biden scorns his own advice, let us heed it instead.

Let’s be clear sighted about what we have and haven’t achieved and the blood price we’ve paid. Let’s protect and succour the weak and shelter our friends and allies who fought alongside us. Let’s make it clear to our foes that their threats will be met with disdain and courage.

And, above all else, let’s try to salvage some honour from this debacle and not scuttle away clutching Uncle Sam’s coat tails.

Patrick Mercer is a former soldier. He was previously Tory MP for Newark.