Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Afghanistan
24 August 2021updated 31 Aug 2021 10:06pm

The Afghanistan debacle has shown Boris Johnson’s lack of influence on the US

The fall of Kabul could come to exemplify the weakened and confused position of “Global Britain”. 

By Ailbhe Rea

Boris Johnson will chair an emergency virtual meeting of G7 leaders this afternoon to discuss the crisis in Afghanistan.

The Prime Minister, along with the leaders of Germany and France, is expected to push for an extension to the 31 August deadline for airlifting people out of the country, but Johnson appears increasingly resigned that the original date will inevitably go ahead. Mentions of an extension have vanished from briefings to journalists ahead of this afternoon’s call, amid signals from the US that it won’t change course and a warning from the Taliban that there would be “consequences” if Western forces remained in Kabul for longer.

There is, therefore, most likely only one week to finish the mass evacuation of Kabul, and the UK is unexpectedly pleased with the number it has successfully evacuated so far. But its wider diplomatic efforts have been less successful: the attempt to lobby for an airlift extension was not successful and the bilateral channel between the US and UK looks weak, if not broken. Johnson has been attempting a global leadership role in corralling the G7 (the UK is the current chair), but the twin demands of the Taliban and US have made the UK’s sway over these matters look rather feeble.

The priority of today’s call will be to coordinate the humanitarian response to the crisis, where the Prime Minister will, again, hope to assume a leadership role. But that is where he will be confronted with the consequences of his past foreign policy decisions. The aid that the UK has promised to Afghanistan in recent weeks is still lower than the 2019 level, limiting Johnson’s scope to secure ambitious aid commitments from allies. Depending on how the G7 call goes today, it could well be that the collapse of Afghanistan comes to exemplify the weakened and confused place of “Global Britain” on the world stage – drifting from the US, and oscillating between leadership and retreat on global issues. 

[See also: The fate of Afghanistan shows why the West must not abandon intervention]

Select and enter your email address Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
  • Administration / Office
  • Arts and Culture
  • Board Member
  • Business / Corporate Services
  • Client / Customer Services
  • Communications
  • Construction, Works, Engineering
  • Education, Curriculum and Teaching
  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Information Services, Statistics, Records, Archives
  • Infrastructure Management - Transport, Utilities
  • Legal Officers and Practitioners
  • Librarians and Library Management
  • Management
  • Marketing
  • OH&S, Risk Management
  • Operations Management
  • Planning, Policy, Strategy
  • Printing, Design, Publishing, Web
  • Projects, Programs and Advisors
  • Property, Assets and Fleet Management
  • Public Relations and Media
  • Purchasing and Procurement
  • Quality Management
  • Science and Technical Research and Development
  • Security and Law Enforcement
  • Service Delivery
  • Sport and Recreation
  • Travel, Accommodation, Tourism
  • Wellbeing, Community / Social Services
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.

Content from our partners
“On supporting farmers, McDonald’s sets a high standard”
City of London Corporation brings stakeholders together to drive climate action
Cybercrime is becoming more like a standard business