‘Imbecilic’: Tony Blair slams Afghanistan withdrawal

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Members of the British and US military engage in the evacuation of people out of Kabul (AP)
Members of the British and US military engage in the evacuation of people out of Kabul (AP)

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has slammed the US decision to withdraw from Afghanistan saying it has "every Jihadist group round the world cheering".

In a lengthy essay, posted on his website late Saturday, Blair said the sudden and chaotic pullout that allowed the Taliban to reclaim power undermined everything that had been achieved in Afghanistan over the past two decades, including advances in living standards and the education of girls.

"The abandonment of Afghanistan and its people is tragic, dangerous, unnecessary, not in their interests and not in ours," said Blair, who deployed troops to Afghanistan 20 years ago after the 9/11 attacks.

"The world is now uncertain of where the West stands because it is so obvious that the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan in this way was driven not by grand strategy but by politics," he added.

Blair also accused US President Joe Biden of being "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."

Blair said Britain had a "moral obligation" to stay in Afghanistan until everyone who needs to be evacuated is taken out.

"We must evacuate and give sanctuary to those to whom we have responsibility - those Afghans who helped us and stood by us and have a right to demand we stand by them," he said.

Like other nations, Britain is trying to evacuate Afghan allies as well as its own citizens from Afghanistan, but with a US-imposed Aug. 31 deadline hovering into view, it's a race against time.

In addition to the 4,000 or so UK citizens, the country is thought to have around 5,000 Afghan allies, such as translators and drivers, earmarked for a seat on a plane.

Blair also warned that the decision by the US to keep Britain largely in the dark about the withdrawal risks relegating the country to "the second division of global powers."

However, he said the UK, in its role as the current president of the Group of Seven nations, was in a position to help coordinate an international response to "hold the new regime to account".

The British government has been working diplomatically to ensure there is no unilateral recognition of a Taliban government in Afghanistan.

"We need to draw up a list of incentives, sanctions, actions we can take including to protect the civilian population so the Taliban understand their actions will have consequences," Blair said.

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