President Joe Biden ignored British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s attempts to contact him for approximately 36 hours as the Taliban cemented its control over Afghanistan, a report said.
Johnson tried to reach Biden on Monday morning, UK time, but wasn’t able to get him on the phone until 10 p.m. Tuesday (5 p.m. Washington time), according to The Daily Telegraph.
The lengthy wait took place as desperate Afghans swarmed Kabul’s international airport in the hope of catching evacuation flights out.
The White House had no immediate comment on the report, but on Tuesday afternoon, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters that the president had “not yet spoken with any other world leaders” about the Afghanistan catastrophe.
“Myself, Secretary [of State Antony] Blinken, several other senior members of the team have been engaged on a regular basis with foreign counterparts, and we intend to do so in the coming days,” Sullivan added.
Once Johnson got Biden on the phone, the Telegraph reported, the British PM urged the American president not to throw away “gains made in Afghanistan,” an apparent response to Biden’s insistence in remarks from the White House Monday that the US “mission in Afghanistan was never supposed to have been nation-building.”
A White House readout of the call states that Biden and Johnson “discussed the need for continued close coordination among allies and democratic partners on Afghanistan policy going forward” and agreed to hold a virtual meeting with other leaders of the G7 nations next week.
On Wednesday, British lawmakers united across party lines to condemn the botched withdrawal as well as Biden’s remarks defending it, using some of the strongest parliamentary language toward an American president in memory.
Tom Tugendhat, a Conservative MP and former British Army officer, went viral for his remarks in which he called the US president’s impugning of Afghan security forces and their will to fight “shameful.”
“Those who have never fought for the colors they fly should be careful about criticizing those who have,” said Tugendhat, who concluded by telling his colleagues: “This doesn’t need to be defeat, but at the moment, it damn well feels like it.”
Labour Party MP Dan Jarvis, another veteran of the Afghan War, called Biden’s comments “particularly distasteful and dishonoring,” while Ed Davey, leader of the center-left Liberal Democrats, described the US withdrawal from Afghanistan as “not just a mistake [but] an avoidable mistake, from President Trump’s flawed deal with the Taliban to President Biden’s decision to proceed, and to proceed in such a disastrous way.”
Johnson also came in for criticism, with his fellow Tory and predecessor as prime minister, Theresa May, recalling that he and Biden had said as recently as last month “that they did not think that the Taliban were ready or able to take over control of the country.”
“Was our intelligence really so poor?” she asked. “Was our understanding of the Afghan government so weak? Was our knowledge of the position on the ground so inadequate? Did we really believe that, or did we just feel that we had to follow the United States and hope that, on a wing and a prayer, it would be all right on the night?”
Johnson, who had called lawmakers back from their August recess to attend the emergency session, insisted that the UK could not continue its Afghan mission “without American logistics, without US air power and without American might.”
“I really think that it is an illusion to believe that there is appetite amongst any of our partners for a continued military presence or for a military solution imposed by NATO in Afghanistan,” the prime minister added.
With the Taliban now in charge of Afghanistan, the immediate priority of the British government is to evacuate the 4,000 or so UK citizens still in Afghanistan and the thousands of Afghans who have helped the UK over the past 20 years.
Johnson said a new “generous” refugee settlement program would allow up to 20,000 vulnerable Afghans, primarily women and children, to seek sanctuary in the UK in the next few years, including 5,000 this year. The total for this year is in addition to the 5,000 or so Afghan allies that the UK is now trying to evacuate from Kabul’s international airport.
With Post wires
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