With a few noble exceptions, the House of Commons yesterday was narrow, insular, and deceived.
His worst tendency was to blame Boris Johnson for the debacle in Afghanistan and the shameful spectacle of desperate Afghans trying to get on planes at Kabul airport.
God knows the Prime Minister made his fair share of mistakes, as many, including myself, were quick to point out. But the disintegration of Afghanistan cannot be blamed on him.
The heartbreaking developments of the past few days have their roots in decisions either made before it enters No.10 or taken unilaterally in Washington without the government having been consulted.
And yet, hearing many MPs talk about it, one would think he was the sole perpetrator of the fiasco. In a landmark speech, Sir Keir Starmer stupidly accused the government of “staggering complacency” in the face of the “Taliban threat” and “betraying the Afghan people”.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson should not be blamed for the situation in Afghanistan, writes Stephen Glover
Ian Blackford, leader of the Scots Nats in the Commons, pompously declared that “the failures rest on the shoulders of the Prime Minister and his Minister of Foreign Affairs”, without enlightening us on what they should have done.
Former Prime Minister Theresa May has also lost her mind. She criticized the government for its “incomprehensible” failure to bring together an alternative alliance to prevent the collapse of Afghanistan.
In fact, in recent weeks Defense Secretary Ben Wallace has attempted to concoct a coalition of NATO members to go it alone without the United States, but no country wanted to.
Is Mrs May seriously suggesting that the UK could have defended Afghanistan on its own?
How easy it is to shoot arrows at the prime minister after Kabul falls into the hands of the Taliban. Why did Ms. May not warn the government months ago in April when President Biden announced the withdrawal of all U.S. troops by September 11?
I claim no particular insight for writing in these pages on April 15: “It seems possible, even probable, that despite all the hundreds of lives lost and billions spent fighting the Taliban, these ruthless fanatics end up occupying the capital, Kabul, and rule the country.
Taliban fighters patrol the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood in the city of Kabul, Afghanistan
FALL OF KABUL: CHRONOLOGY OF THE RAPID ADVANCE OF THE TALIBAN AFTER 40 YEARS OF CONFLICT
February 29, 2020 Trump negotiates deal with Taliban setting U.S. withdrawal date for May 1, 2021
November 17, 2020 Pentagon announces it will cut troops to 2,500 in Afghanistan
January 15, 2020 Inspector General reveals “pride and lies” of US efforts in Afghanistan
Feb 3, 2019 2021 Afghan study group report warns of ‘irresponsible’ withdrawal
Mars Military command makes last-ditch effort to prevent Biden from withdrawing
14 avril BIden announces withdrawal will be completed by September 11
May 4 – Taliban fighters launch a major offensive against Afghan forces in southern Helmand province. They also attack in at least six other provinces
May 11 – Taliban capture Nerkh district just outside the capital Kabul as violence escalates across the country
June 7 – Senior government officials say more than 150 Afghan soldiers are killed in 24 hours as the fighting escalates. They add that fighting is raging in 26 of the country’s 34 provinces
June 22 – Taliban fighters launch a series of attacks in the north of the country, far from their traditional strongholds in the south. UN envoy to Afghanistan says they have taken over 50 of 370 districts
July 2nd – The United States evacuates Bagram airfield in the middle of the night
July the 5th – Taliban say they could present written peace proposal to Afghan government as early as August
July 21 – Taliban insurgents control about half of the country’s districts, according to senior US general, emphasizing the scale and speed of their advance
July 25 – United States pledges to continue supporting Afghan troops “in the weeks to come” with intensified airstrikes to help them counter Taliban attacks
July 26 – United Nations says nearly 2,400 Afghan civilians were killed or injured in escalating violence in May and June, the highest number for those months since records began in 2009
August 6 – Zaranj in the south of the country becomes the first provincial capital to fall into the hands of the Taliban in years. Many more will follow in the days that follow, including the popular town of Kunduz in the north.
August 13 – Pentagon insists Kabul not under imminent threat
August 14 – The Taliban seized the large northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif and, with little resistance, Pul-e-Alam, capital of Logar province just 70 km (40 miles) south of Kabul. US sends more troops to help evacuate civilians from Kabul as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani says he consults with local and international partners on next steps
August 15th – Taliban take key eastern city of Jalalabad without a fight, effectively surrounding Kabul
Taliban insurgents enter Kabul, Interior Ministry official says, as US evacuates diplomats from embassy by helicopter
The danger was obvious – and yet Ms May (who did not give a single major parliamentary speech on Afghanistan during her tenure as prime minister) remained silent. MM. Starmer and Blackford also haven’t shown the slightest interest in what should be done.
As for Labor shadow Minister of Foreign Affairs Lisa Nandy over the weekend she sharply criticized the withdrawal of US and UK troops from Afghanistan on the BBC.
And yet, on Times Radio last month, she said the British military presence in Afghanistan was “beyond its usefulness.”
What hypocrisy! Needless to say, I am not exempting the government entirely. It has been shockingly slow to accelerate the exodus of Afghans who worked for the British, with the result (as Mr Wallace tearfully admitted on Monday) that some to whom we are indebted are deserted.
It is a cause that the Mail has championed for at least six years in countless pieces. Did Sir Keir Starmer add his weight? Not until the very last minute.
So, yes, the government is at fault in this matter, even though, as the Prime Minister noted yesterday, Afghanistan has collapsed faster than anyone, including the Taliban, predicted.
But it is foolish to blame Boris Johnson for Afghanistan’s strategic disaster, and I despair of those oversized and hypocritical MPs who castigate him even though they have had nothing useful to say in the recent past.
The truth is that the Prime Minister inherited a desperate situation. President Trump was determined to bring American troops home. In February 2020, his administration and the Taliban signed a peace accord.
America has pledged to drastically reduce the number of its troops by about 12,000. The start of May 2021 has been set as the date for the final withdrawal.
Joe Biden could have canceled this process but chose not to. He simply postponed the day of the last troops’ withdrawal to September 11, exactly 20 years after the attack on the World Trade Center that precipitated the US invasion of Afghanistan.
My argument is not that Trump and Biden did not have the right to withdraw American soldiers. But there is certainly no question that he was executed with a bluntness that left Afghanistan at the mercy of the Taliban, and risks undoing the good work done by the United States, Britain and other allies of the United States. NATO.
The crux of the matter is that despite the deaths of 457 British servicemen in Afghanistan and spending tens of billions of pounds, the British government has hardly been consulted. President Biden made the decision as if Boris Johnson did not exist.
Indeed, in his selfish speech on Tuesday, he did not mention the huge British contribution. Neither did his Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, in an equally America-focused address on Sunday. Britain was not cited as having invaded Afghanistan until the 19th century.
Doesn’t that say it all? As far as Biden and previous administrations go, Afghanistan has been an American endeavor in which countries such as Britain were invited to lend a helping hand as long as they didn’t claim to have a major strategic word.
This is why it is so misguided to blame Boris Johnson for what happened. The decision to disgracefully surrender was made in Washington, and there was nothing our government could do about it.
The lesson, which most MPs were reluctant to take yesterday, is that the United States is an authoritarian and unreliable ally. Our ruling class should remember this before joining any of the future American wars.
Our lack of clarity on American conduct goes back further than Biden or Trump. Tony Blair took that country to Afghanistan, after declaring after the attack on the World Trade Center that “we are all Americans now”, and babbling apocalyptically about “the kaleidoscope” being “shaken”.
He didn’t understand why we should get involved in Afghanistan. In 2001, he spoke fondly of the death of a woman following an overdose of Afghan heroin and vowed to eradicate the cultivation of opium. It has multiplied enormously in two decades.
US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on Afghanistan in the East Room of the White House
What mattered to Blair was that we were one with the Americans, and the justifications might come later.
Twenty years later, we should finally realize that while the United States is our closest ally, we are at best taken for granted, at worst ignored.
The most touching speech in the Commons yesterday was delivered by Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat, who served in the British Army in Afghanistan. Unlike me, he apparently believes it was worth sacrificing lives.
Here is a man who fought for his country and who must be listened to. He rightly criticized President Biden for challenging the courage of Afghan soldiers and said the shocking result “looks like damn” like defeat.
With a few noble exceptions, the House of Commons yesterday was narrow, insular and deceived, writes Stephen Glover
That’s what he’s doing – a defeat for the West, and therefore for Britain. Tony Blair bears a great deal of responsibility for our stagnation in Afghanistan. Successive prime ministers and presidents, culminating with Trump and Biden, are also guilty.
But not Boris Johnson. He can be blamed for a lot of things but not for the legacy he inherited. Petty politicians who opportunistically point their guns at him refuse to understand what really happened.