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His efforts were later backed by defence secretary Ben Wallace, who personally lobbied counterparts ahead of a crucial meeting of Nato’s North Atlantic Council on June 1 to put the subject of date changes on the agendas – but without success.
The Military Committee in Chief of Defence Session on May 18 – chaired by Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach – was the first formal chance for Nato’s most senior commanders to discuss
Biden’s announcement of April 13.
“Carter remained calm, but he did not hold back. For him it was an issue of conscience, of moral obligation , and he knew he had the backing of Downing Street,” said a highly placed source last night.
“He argued with Milley that it’s the wrong time, we’re not done, we’re not ready and we just shouldn’t do it.
“He was met with silence. Not one Nato ally nodded their head, let alone supported him vocally. It was, as they say, a tumbleweed moment.”
His efforts were later backed by defence secretary Ben Wallace, who personally lobbied counterparts ahead of a crucial meeting of Nato’s North Atlantic Council on June 1.
“By then, it was clear that forming any sort of military coalition to hold the line after the US pulled out was not going toward, despite some interest by Canada and Italy. We just didn’t have the capability.
“But there was some cause to believe there may be some flexibility in the US approach. Reports had already surfaced. Wallace tried, but he wasn’t even able to get a change of dates on to the agenda.
“Though (Nato secretary general Jens) Stoltenberg uncharacteristically blew a fuse over the situation, and though even Milley had been privately opposed to the withdrawal timetable, the sense was that the US mandate was over, and there was nothing left to discuss.”
Last night former head of the British Army Gen Lord Dannatt added: “Those were and remain Nick’s views. He was heavily invested in trying to find a way we could stay longer. Of course, this was with the backing of the government.”
Gen Carter, who serves as Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS), was criticised last week for suggesting the insurgents were only “country boys who live by a code of honour”. But one of his predecessors, Gen Lord Richards, defended his actions.
“What the CDS would have been worried about is alienating the Taliban during a period where, whether we like it or not, the evacuation is entirely dependent on their compliance, ” said Lord Richards who, as CDS between 2010-13, oversaw the groundwork for the drawdown from Afghanistan withdrawal in 2014.
“This is a good example of the CDS under pressure – having to say something you may not believe for the sake of the operation.
“There are times when you have to balance truth against expediency and what Carter did was exactly that.”
Fabrice Pothier, former head of policy planning for Nato, said: “Stoltenberg is cool and calm. He doesn’t get riled up easily. But he was extremely angry at Nato’s leading power, the US, beginning with the brutal way it unplugged from Bagram airport.
“Europe could have mustered a small force to fill the gap for a short time, though it’s very difficult to replace US command and control capabilities, as Macron has found in Mali.
“But, really, you have to ask why European allies continue dto provide support in Afghanistan? It’s because they feared another wave of mass migration such as the one in 2015 which , though mostly Syrians, also included Afghans.
“Once the US had made its decision, there was not much political will to challenge it. Afghanistan just isn’t close enough to European interests.”
Last night Downing Street confirmed that PM Boris Johnson would soon table a UN Security Council Resolution for UN humanitarian intervention in Afghanistan, following talks with French President Emmanuel Macron, Nato secretary general Stoltenberg and UN secretary general António Guterres.
The move, if not blocked by Russia and China, would see Nato countries target terrorism in Afghanistan and ensiure citizens have access to humantirain aid, though it was not clear exactly how this would be achieved..
He will also be addressing the future of Afghanistan in meeting with the G7 leaders this week.
“The UK has absolutely been front and centre of the diplomatic effort on Afghanistan. We’re leading at the G7, the UN Security Council and NATO, and the Prime Minister has been on the phone to world leaders every day this week coordinating on evacuations and international action,‘ said a senior Government source.
“We’ve doubled our humanitarian aid to Afghanistan and will be urging others to step up at next week’s G7 – we need a joined up, UN-led process that protects Afghans and prevents a collapse into chaos.
“The US is critical to the international effort and we’ve been working side-by-side with them, on the ground in Afghanistan and at all levels of government.”
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