Sen. Bill Hagerty, after meeting with U.S. allies in Europe last week, told Fox News Monday that there was a “palpable frustration” with President Biden’s handling of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and that foreign leaders are “shocked” at the result.
The former U.S. ambassador to Japan made the comments after going to the United Kingdom on Friday and on Saturday to Brussels, Belgium, where the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is headquartered, in an effort to reassure those countries of American leadership.
“They said that the first time in history that Article Five of the NATO treaty was invoked was when we came to the United States’ aid after the U.S. was attacked September 11, 2001. We came to the U.S.’s aid to show solidarity,” Hagerty said he was told by NATO diplomats.
One representative, according to Hagerty, lamented that “‘solidarity deserves consultation,’ meaning you should consult with us, you should collaborate with us.”
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“And the implied question is, ‘Why didn’t you?'” Hagerty continued. “‘Why did you leave us in a posture like this?’ And frankly, we left our allies in a posture where they couldn’t fulfill their own promises to their own allies. And there’s a palpable frustration.”
The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan under Biden’s leadership is an ongoing crisis that’s drawing domestic condemnation more than a week after its completion, in part due to the apparent hostage situation at the Mazar-e Sharif airport.
“I have been deeply frustrated, even furious, at our government’s delay and inaction. There will be plenty of time to seek accountability for the inexcusable bureaucratic red tape that stranded so many of our Afghan allies,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said Monday of the planes with Americans at that airport. “I expect the White House and State Department to do everything in their power – absolutely everything – to make this happen, he said. These are Americans … and Afghans who risked everything for our country. We cannot leave them behind.”
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Biden and his defenders have maintained that leaving Afghanistan was the United States’ only option after former President Donald Trump’s negotiations with the Taliban. They also argue that there is no way the withdrawal could have been handled well, and that the U.S. will still be able to battle terror with “over the horizon” technology, including manned aircraft and drones.
But Hagerty said NATO allies are not so convinced and are worried that the withdrawal will lead to a resurgence of Islamic terrorism.
“Something that was a very common thread… is the belief that we handed terrorism a massive propaganda victory,” Hagerty said. “Their concern is that the propaganda victory will embolden jihadists around the world” to act against the West.
Hagerty said NATO countries are also concerned that a massive refugee and immigration crisis could slam their countries simultaneously.
“They feel because of their proximity they’re more at risk than the United States. They said to me that ‘you’re protected by an ocean, we are not,'” Hagerty said.
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The senator said he did not hear any rumblings from the United Kingdom and other NATO countries that they may be considering closer relationships with China or Russia in light of the United States’ failures in Afghanistan.
But those countries were nevertheless “surprised and they were frankly shocked at the way things unfolded” in the U.S.-led evacuations, Hagerty said. And those countries want to see action from Biden to mitigating what they see as a simmering terrorism threat resulting from his actions.
“I think step one is to stop deflecting and to own it and to acknowledge the fact that we have new challenges that are emerging from the situation in Afghanistan,” Hagerty said. “What we need to see is… action that demonstrates and underscores the fact that we are not going to sit idle in the face of a heightened threat of terror” as well as a coming refugee crisis.