LONDON — Britain’s top soldier has voiced his dismay at the announcement by U.S. President Joe Biden that American troops were being pulled out of Afghanistan.
Gen. Nick Carter, the chief of the General Staff, said in an interview with the BBC on April 16 that while he respected the view taken by the Biden administration it was “not a decision we hoped for.”
“It is clearly an acknowledgement of an evolving U.S. strategic posture,” he said.
Carter’s remarks on the Today radio program followed a meeting in London on April 15 between U.K. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
A British MoD spokesman said Afghanistan and the situation in the Ukraine had been among the issues Wallace discussed with his counterpart.
Biden announced April 14 that the United States was pulling out its remaining 2,500 troops by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks that sparked the action against the Taliban government in Afghanistan.
Wallace issued a statement about the withdrawal April 14 but made no mention of British disappointment regarding the move.
Carter is the first senior officer or politician here to voice disappointment over the withdrawal decision.
The general was due to step down from his post this summer but has had his term as Britain’s top soldier extended by a few months as the British start a major transformation effort outlined in a recently published integrated review of defense, security and foreign policy.
Britain has around 750 troops in Afghanistan who are predominantly involved in training activities.
Withdrawals are expected to start next month.
In all NATO has around 10,000 troops in Afghanistan, all of whom will be withdrawn by September.
Despite disputing the decision to exit Afghanistan, Carter said he didn’t believe the post-withdrawal position would be as bad as the “naysayers” think.
“I actually think that the Taliban is not the organization it once was, it is an organization that has evolved significantly in the 20 years that we have been there, “he said.
“They recognize that they need some political legitimacy and I would not be surprised if a scenario plays out that actually sees it not being quite as bad as perhaps some of the naysayers at the moment are predicting,” said Carter.
That’s not a view that gets the support of experts like Nick Reynolds, the land warfare analyst at the Royal United Services Institute think tank here.
In a commentary published before Carter made his remarks Reynolds said he thought “the current Afghan government is unlikely to survive.”
“A victorious Taliban regime would be similar in outlook and in its approach to governance as it was before in 2001: a conservative theocracy uninterested in either development or human rights,” he said.
The RUSI analyst said the Biden administration’s withdrawal strategy is predicated on one of two assumptions.
“Either terrorists will not be able to operate from Afghanistan, or they can be contained there by global counterterrorism efforts ensuring that any attempt by Afghanistan-based terrorist organizations to operate abroad can be identified and neutralized,” he said.
“The former eventuality is unlikely. If the Taliban take over, Al-Qa’ida and other organizations will regain a significant base of operations,” said Reynolds.
Andrew Chuter is the United Kingdom correspondent for Defense News.