But in capitals across Europe, from London to Berlin, Afghanistan has soured the sweetness of Joe Biden’s honeymoon. It’s not the fact of the withdrawal itself that has rankled but the US’s lack of coordination with allies, particularly since the Nato mission at the time of the drawdown comprised troops from 36 countries, three-quarters of whom were non-American, leading to an international scramble to evacuate.
The German deployment in Afghanistan was its first major combat mission since World War II, so the frustration at how it ended runs deep. Armin Laschet, Germany’s conservative candidate for chancellor ahead of elections later this month, called the US withdrawal “the greatest debacle that Nato has experienced since its foundation”.
Czech President Milos Zeman labelled it “cowardice”, adding that “the Americans have lost the prestige of a global leader”.
“Expectations were very high when Joe Biden came in – probably too high, they were unrealistic,” Carl Bildt, Sweden’s former Prime Minister, told the BBC. “His ‘America is back’ suggested a golden age in our relations. But it didn’t happen and there’s been a shift in a fairly short period of time. The complete lack of consultations over the withdrawal has left a scar.”