Has Kabul debacle opened a rift between Boris and ‘doolally’ Biden? No10 denies PM feels ‘betrayed’ after Washington’s rapid pull-out left UK exposed
- UK tied to US cut-off date of August 31 for end of evacuation flights from Kabul
- If Joe Biden fails to extend the date, the UK will have to stop flights within days
- No10 denied claims that PM Boris Johnson feels ‘furious’ or ‘let down’ by America
Boris Johnson’s feelings about America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan have been variously described by sources as ‘furious’, ‘a betrayal’ and ‘let down’.
Downing Street dismisses the claims – it is in neither country’s interests to stoke tensions when the future of Afghanistan hangs in the balance – but there is little question that the UK has been left exposed by the speed of Washington’s pull-out.
Britain is tied to America’s cut-off date of August 31 for the end of evacuation flights, which was agreed without consultation, meaning that if Joe Biden fails to extend the date, the UK will have to stop flights within days – to allow time to also remove the 900 British troops in the country.
No 10 also denies claims that the Prime Minister was disappointed by Mr Biden’s victory in the Presidential elections and had declared that it would have been ‘better’ if Donald Trump had won a second term, and say it is ‘categorically untrue’ that Mr Johnson employs the President’s derogatory nickname of Sleepy Joe during jocular conversations.
No10 denied claims that PM Boris Johnson (pictured) feels ‘furious’ or ‘let down’ by America
Across Whitehall and in British embassies around the world, officials and diplomats are adjusting to the fact that Mr Biden has adopted an America First policy every bit as isolationist as his predecessor’s.
There are also whispered concerns that the 78-year-old might be, in the words of one Government source, ‘a bit doolally’ – unable to exert full executive grip on the White House and with a world view forged decades ago and out of step with the demands of leadership in the 2020s.
The Times claimed yesterday that Mr Johnson finds Mr Biden ‘lightweight and inward-looking’.
Observers of the two men’s relationship believe that there is a degree of wariness, with Mr Biden regarding Mr Johnson as a ‘mini-Trump’ because of his personality-driven style of politics and the pair talking far less frequently than Mr Johnson and Mr Trump did.
There are also policy differences, with Washington reluctant to accede to the UK’s demand to ramp up spending on ‘green’ policies ahead of the COP26 climate change summit being hosted by the UK in November.
Of particular irritation in London during the Afghan endgame has been the fact that British military commanders have been cut out of discussions between the US and the Taliban.
Britain is tied to America’s cut-off date of August 31 for the end of evacuation flights, which was agreed without consultation, meaning that if Joe Biden (pictured) fails to extend the date, the UK will have to stop flights within days – to allow time to also remove the 900 British troops in the country
But a No 10 source said yesterday that Mr Johnson had not expressed any anger over the US withdrawal, and said the two men had enjoyed a ‘warm and constructive’ phone conversation on Tuesday evening.
A Downing Street spokesman said: ‘These claims are categorically untrue. The Prime Minister has not criticised President Biden, and they have a very strong working relationship.
The President’s first call to a leader outside of North America after his election win was to the Prime Minister.
They have worked together on a range of issues, including at the recent G7, where they secured an additional one billion Covid vaccine doses for developing countries, and signed the Carbis Bay Declaration to improve global health co-operation and prevent future pandemics’.
President Biden cancelled plans to spend the weekend at his home in Delaware. Instead he is meeting his national security team ‘to hear intelligence, security and diplomatic updates on the evolving situation in Afghanistan,’ the White House said.
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