You’re reading Reaction. To get Iain Martin’s weekly newsletter and full access to the site, sign up for a free 30-day trial here.

In the heat of the moment strong words can be exchanged between colleagues and friends in a war zone. However, what has allegedly been happening at Kabul airport goes deeper and shows the levels of anger in the UK military, and government, about America’s decision to cut and run from Afghanistan.

Two independent sources say that last week a senior officer from the 2nd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment (2 Para) had a blazing row with the commanding officer from the American 82nd Airborne Division in front of other soldiers at Kabul airport. The exchange of views came after British special forces units made several forays into the city to rescue people who were in hiding and could not pass through Taliban checkpoints to get to the airport.

One source suggests 2 Para units have also gone on “snatch” missions just outside of the airport to get people they recognize. On occasion they have aggressively pushed past Taliban checkpoints and ignored demands to go back inside. Following this Maj.Gen. Christopher Donahue from the 82nd Airborne ordered the British officer to cease operations outside of the airport perimeter fence because it was embarrassing the American military and angering the Taliban, thus risking the possibility of firefights breaking out.

The British officer reminded the Maj.Gen. that the UK operation was independent of the US. The conversation allegedly ended when the Maj. General was called a “bastard” by a British Major, and the senior British officer told the American to “f*** off!” Apparently the “most vocal” person in the room was a very senior officer from the SAS.

Some American officers are unhappy with the caution showed by their Maj. Gen although it’s probable he was under orders from US Central Command (Centcom).

One, with close contacts in 2 Para, says: “The Parachute Regiment, bravely venture into Kabul to rescue the Queen’s subjects while our force of now 6000 soldiers and marines strong says it isn’t possible. My brave friends from 2 Para are doing what I would both want to do and expect from my government. I love my Army, my fellow Rangers and paratroopers, but tonight my pride stands with my at risk brothers in 2 Para and my brothers in the UK SAS and other special forces. I will always stand with action vs inaction when it comes to the political will to execute in a time of crisis.’’

Some officers and NCOs in the 82nd have asked permission to go out on escort patrols but have been refused permission.

American risk aversion stems from concern that if serious shooting breaks out the entire rescue mission would be in jeopardy. However, it also reflects a high-handed attitude which reflects how the retreat from Afghanistan has been handled. Allies were not told in advance of the accelerated pull out and were blind-sided when the Americans snuck out of Bagram airbase under cover of darkness.

There has been a serious lack of communication between Washington and London for weeks on the issue and now sources suggest that the most senior military figure overseeing the British role in the evacuation, Vice Admiral Ben Key, has been frozen out of negotiations between CENTCOM staff and Taliban commanders in Kabul. Other allies are also being kept out of the loop and are not communicating with each other efficiently. This has been a factor in flights leaving almost empty. A large Luftwaffe plane left with only 7 people on board and an Australian C-130 departed just a third full.

An argument can be made for the gradual exit from Afghanistan and the end of America’s “forever war”, even if former Prime Minister Tony Blair describes the term as “imbecilic”. But the manner of leaving has shocked people all over the world. Some are in despair, others gleeful. America has not only led NATO into a generational failure, but it has also shown it cannot plan for and manage the immediate fall out. It has also put doubt in its friends minds about its reliability.

The UK should not, arguably cannot, end its friendship with the US, but the strong words used at the airport reflect what, in the heat of this moment, the governments of the NATO alliance are thinking.

Reaction has approached the MOD for comment on the allegations above, but to date it has not responded.