Tony Blair has criticized the Western powers’ decision to withdraw from Afghanistan as a “tragic, dangerous, unnecessary” move in his first public comments since the Taliban uprising seized control.
The former prime minister said the country had been returned to the same group “which emerged from the 9/11 massacre” and in a “way that seems almost designed to parade our humiliation”.
He added that troops were being withdrawn by US President Joe Biden “in obedience to an unblemished political slogan to end ‘the eternal wars'”, and called for caution in comparing the situation this year with the situation of “for 20 or even for 10 years ago “.
Blair, who took Britain to war in Afghanistan against the Taliban almost two decades ago in 2001, said the number of troops had fallen “to a minimum” and that “no Allied soldier had lost his life in the fight for [the] 18 months ”into 2021.
He argued that the decision to withdraw from the region “was not driven by great strategy, but by politics”.
“Giving up Afghanistan and its people is tragic, dangerous, unnecessary, not in their interests and not in ours,” he said.
In a 2,700-word article – published Saturday night – Blair, the prime minister between 1997 and 2007, said Britain should also evacuate and “give sanctuary to those for whom we are responsible”.
It’s coming after Boris Johnson described “formidable” logistics involved in airlifting British nationals and Afghans issued visas out of the region from Hamid Karzai International Airport in the capital.
On Friday, Mr Biden also suggested that troops involved in the evacuation mission could stay longer than the Aug. 31 deadline, promising to get “all” U.S. citizens out.
But Blair warned against “repeating arbitrary deadlines” in his article. He also said we should evacuate people “not reluctantly, but out of a deep sense of humanity and responsibility”.
The former prime minister also hit the agreement between the US government under the Donald Trump administration and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, in February 2020 to withdraw US troops.
“The world is now unsure of where the West stands because it is so obvious that the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan in this way was not driven by a major strategy, but by politics,” he wrote.
“We did not have to do that. We chose to do it. We did so when the victims of our troops had made these fragile gains our duty to preserve.
“We did it when the February 2020 agreement, even filled with concessions to the Taliban, by which the United States agreed to withdraw if the Taliban negotiated a broad-based government … we did it with every jihadist group around the world cheering . “
Claiming that Britain had “little or no consultations” on the US decision – the country’s “biggest ally” – to withdraw troops, Blair said Britain had “serious reflection to do”.
“We do not see it yet. But we risk referring to the second division of global powers. Maybe we do not bother. But we should at least make the decision consciously. ”
His intervention follows the call of Labor MP Zarah Sultana, who wrote in a article this week that the Labor Party should apologize to lead Britain into war with Afghanistan along with the United States and also described the intervention as a “failure of catastrophic magnitude” during an emergency Commons debate.
Blair said of his own role: “As the leader of our country, when we made the decision to join America to remove the Taliban from power, which saw the great hopes we had for what we could achieve for the people and the world, decrease under the weight of the bitter reality, I know better than most how difficult management decisions are and how easy it is to be critical and how difficult to be constructive. ”
In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Blair continued: “We are forgetting this now, but the world was spinning its axis.
“We feared an attack, possibly worse. The Taliban were given an ultimatum: abandon al-Qaeda leadership or be removed from power so that Afghanistan could not be used for further attacks. They refused. We felt that there was no safer alternative to our safety than keeping our word ”.
But he added: “We stuck to the prospect backed by a significant commitment to turning Afghanistan from a failed terrorist state into a functioning democracy in recovery.
“It may have been a misplaced ambition, but it was not an insignificant one. There is no doubt that in the years that followed we made mistakes, some serious ones ”.
After Johnson suggested that Britain would work with the rebel group if “necessary” – as the evacuation of British nationals and Afghans with visas continues – Blair also said the government should “develop a means to deal with the Taliban and exert maximum pressure on them”.
Ahead of a meeting with G7 leaders – led by Britain – he said governments should commit to coordinating aid to the people of Afghanistan and “holding the new regime accountable”.
“We need to draw up a list of incentives, sanctions, actions we can take, including to protect the civilian population, so that the Taliban understand that their actions will have consequences,” he added.
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