Defence Secretary Ben Wallace takes a swipe at Biden by suggesting the US is no longer a ‘superpower’ after rush to flee Afghanistan amid growing chill in transatlantic relationship
- Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said ‘is obvious that Britain is not a superpower’
- Said evacuation from Afghanistan ‘could have been worse’ if Taliban had fought
- Mr Wallace also denied claims that he blocked a flight out of Afghanistan for former Royal Marine Pen Farthing and his rescue animals
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace lashed out at the United States last night, suggesting it was no longer a global superpower after its humiliating retreat from Afghanistan.
The Cabinet minister hit out in an interview following the hurried Western withdrawal from the war-ravaged country that left the extremist Taliban in charge after a 20-year conflict.
Speaking to the Spectator magazine he highlighted the UK’s inability to act without US support, saying it had been unable to field its own ‘mass army’ for half a century.
But in remarks that show how frayed the so-called ‘special relationship’ with Washington has become in recent weeks, he 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 comments will be seen as a swipe at the United States after its decision to abandon its military effort in Afghanistan.
But defence sources denied this, saying he was making a wider point about the need for the West to stand up to adversaries prepared to stick to ‘100-year plans’.
A source said Mr Wallace was clear that the US ‘is a superpower’.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace (pictured) said last night: ‘A superpower that is also not prepared to stick at something isn’t probably a superpower’
The remarks will be seen as an attack on the US after Joe Biden (pictured) ordered the country to withdraw from Afghanistan and leave it in the hands of the Taliban
The Defence Secretary also used the interview to turn friendly fire on his Cabinet colleague Dominic Raab, who was in Qatar today (pictured) to discuss the post-war situation in Afghanistan
The Defence Secretary also used the interview to turn friendly fire on his Cabinet colleague Dominic Raab.
Mr Wallace claimed he warned in July that the ‘game is up’ in Afghanistan amid a worsening row with the Foreign Secretary.
Mr Raab yesterday pointed the finger at intelligence failings after he said the UK’s central assessment was it was ‘unlikely’ Kabul would fall to the Taliban this year.
He said the main planning scenario of a slow deterioration in the country had remained in place ‘until late’.
But Mr Wallace has hit back at the suggestion that intelligence had failed as he said he had argued in July that ‘whatever we think, the game is up’ and the UK should ‘accelerate whatever we’re doing’.
‘I’ve already seen some lines about the failure of intelligence,’ he told the Spectator.
‘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.’
Labour’s shadow security minister Conor McGinn said: ‘While British nationals and Afghans who helped us are fighting for their lives, the Cabinet are more interested in fighting for their jobs.
‘It’s embarrassing to watch and tragic for those terrified in Afghanistan, who are looking to Britain for a way out of the despair, but just see a Government fighting like rats in a sack.
‘We need a plan for those left behind in Afghanistan, and a focus on protecting Britain’s security, not this unseemly infighting at the top of Government.’
Mr Wallace said it was time for the public to take a realistic look at Britain’s place in the world.
He told the Spectator Britain ‘hasn’t been able to field a mass army for 50 years – if not longer’.
But he said the country still had ‘a huge range of tools at our disposal: from soft to hard power, economic power, scientific power and cultural power’.
The Defence Secretary deployed 600 British troops to Afghanistan last month to facilitate the evacuation from Kabul airport, and he said the situation ‘could have been much worse’ if the Taliban had fought back.
The Defence Secretary deployed 600 British troops to Afghanistan last month to facilitate the evacuation from Kabul airport, and he said the situation ‘could have been much worse’ if the Taliban had fought back. Pictured: British military boarding an RAF aircraft at Kabul Airport
Mr Wallace also denied claims that he blocked a flight out of Afghanistan for former Royal Marine Pen Farthing and his rescue animals but said said he ‘won’t prioritise pets over people’
Mr Wallace added: ‘We sent 16 Air Assault Brigade, Nato’s most ready brigade, specifically designed for quick intervention and raw fighting. If it turned nasty, that was who you wanted there. And it could have been nasty. But the Taliban in the end were compliant.
‘They could have rained mortars on [the airport]. They didn’t. It was better than it could have been.’
Mr Wallace also denied claims that he blocked a flight out of Afghanistan for former Royal Marine Pen Farthing and his rescue animals.
‘I didn’t block the flight,’ he said. ‘But I said very clearly that I won’t prioritise pets over people.’
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