Kabul explosions are ‘what defeat looks like’, Conservative MP says

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“This is what defeat looks like,” Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat has said of the explosions that have killed at least 60 people in Kabul.

Mr Tugendhat, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, said the West now has no say over the future of Afghanistan.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4, he said: “This is what defeat looks like.

“Defeat is when you don’t control any of the process anymore and if you are lucky you just about get out with your lives and a bit of your equipment and that’s what we are doing at the moment.

“We don’t have any control, we don’t have any say. It’s a defeat.”

Eleven US marines and a navy medic are among the dead, US officials have said.

Mr Tugendhat – himself a former Territorial Army soldier who served in Afghanistan – described the situation as “the sun setting over some really pretty terrible decisions by the west over a number of years”.

He added there had been “a complete failure to believe in the principles we claim to advocate”.

“We haven’t invested significantly in our defence for many years, we haven’t invested significantly in our foreign policy for many years and we are surprised when organisations like the Taliban defeat us in Afghanistan or countries like China outwit us in diplomacy in Africa,” he said.

“But I am afraid that is the result of decisions we have taken and are taking even today.

The Taliban has condemned the attack, and it is believed to have been carried out by affiliates of the Islamic State group.

Mr Tugendhat dismissed suggestions the Taliban were now on the same side as coalition troops, saying: “This is an organisation that has been hosted by the Taliban in various different ways, they are now complaining that the dog they taught to bite is biting.”

He said Islamic State and the Taliban had “housed and husbanded each other” in various ways for many years.

“(The Taliban) is an organisation that when it was in government didn’t give a damn about the people it was supposed to be governing, didn’t do anything for their education or economic development,” he said.

The MP said the Taliban had used Afghanistan as a “platform” for aggression and violence when it was last in power.

He added: “I have to say I am extremely doubtful that these people are going to become rational governing party.”

Afghanistan
Smoke from the explosions at Kabul airport (Wali Sabawoon/AP)

Speaking to BBC News, he said western powers had to ensure they had not thrown “a tonne of fuel” over the ambitions of other terrorist groups by withdrawing from Afghanistan.

“The reality is there are many either groups that have drawn inspiration from this – Al-Shabaab in the Horn of Africa, Boko Haram in Nigeria, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in Mali,” he said.

“We need to be making absolutely certain that what we haven’t just done is thrown a tonne of fuel on to the smouldering embers of a very vicious fire.”

Mr Tugendhat was fiercely critical of President Joe Biden’s decision to go ahead with the withdrawal after taking office.

“This isn’t necessary, we didn’t need to be here, we had 2,500 US troops, 750 British troops,” he said.

“That’s not a serious troop contributing situation, that’s not South Korea where we’ve got 30,000 or Cyprus where we’ve got a few thousand – in military terms it’s marginal.”

He said the UK had no other option but to leave when the US pulled out.

But he added: “We went in together and we should have been part of the decision making process together.

“It seems like we’ve gone from ‘America first’ to ‘America alone’, it’s not really a great advert for coalition building or alliance networks.”

Mr Tugendhat said: “When we heard ‘America’s back’ at the beginning of this (presidential) term, we’re now hearing ‘America’s back home and without you’.”

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