Former UK prime minister Tony Blair, who in 2001 took Britain into war in Afghanistan alongside the United States, on Saturday condemned their “abandonment” of the country as “dangerous” and “unnecessary”.
In his first public comments on the crisis since the Afghan government collapsed last weekend, Blair criticized the US motives for the withdrawal as “imbecilic” and “driven not by grand strategy but by politics”, reports AFP news agency.
“The abandonment of Afghanistan and its people is tragic, dangerous, unnecessary, not in their interests and not in ours,” Blair wrote in a wide-ranging article published on his institute’s website.
“We didn’t need to do it. We chose to do it.”
“We did it in obedience to an imbecilic political slogan about ending ‘the forever wars’, as if our engagement in 2021 was remotely comparable to our commitment 20 or even 10 years ago.”
The comments will be widely seen as a direct attack on US President Joe Biden, who used the “forever wars” phrase repeatedly during campaigning last year, says AFP’s report.
Blair, a controversial figure both in Britain and abroad over his strong support for US-led military action in both Afghanistan and then Iraq, argued the withdrawal left “every Jihadist group round the world cheering”.
“Russia, China and Iran will see and take advantage. Anyone given commitments by Western Leaders will understandably regard them as unstable currency,” he added.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who has faced sustained criticism for being on holiday when Kabul fell, conceded late Saturday that Moscow and Beijing would now play a bigger role in Afghanistan.
“We’re going to have to bring in countries with a potentially moderating influence like Russia and China, however uncomfortable that is,” he told the Sunday Telegragh.
“It will give us a group to exercise greater influence and better convey our messages to the Taliban,” he said.
Seven Afghan civilians had died in the chaotic crowds outside the city’s international airport on Sunday, according to reports.
Peter Galbraith, former UN deputy special representative for Afghanistan, said all the coalition partners bore responsibility for the chaos unfolding.
“In terms of what was imbecilic, frankly it was the strategy that was followed for 20 years, which was to try to build a highly centralised state in a country that was as diverse – geographically and ethnically – as Afghanistan, and to engage in a counterinsurgency strategy without a local partner and the local partner was corrupt, ineffective, illegitimate,” he said.
He added that coalition partners “never seriously tried to address the corruption that was prevalent from the top”, acquiescing in “fraudulent” Afghan elections, and trying to fit facts into a predetermined strategy, “rather than having a strategy that was based on the facts”.
Featured Image: Tony Blair with British forces in Afghanistan’s Helmand province in 2006 [Photo File/BBC]