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Defence Committee Chair Criticises “Timid” Response From Government As Taliban Closes In On Kabul

Tobias Ellwood is chair of the defence select committee (Alamy)

3 min read

Tobias Ellwood MP, chair of the defence select committee, has criticised the government for failing to take a strong stance on Afghanistan as Taliban forces look set to take control of the capital of Kabul.

Ellwood told PoliticsHome that the Prime Minister should “think again” about the decision to withdraw troops from the region in line with US forces in light of the fresh crisis in the country.

“The response from the government, from Number 10, has been completely timid and goes absolutely against this resolve that the UK is back on the international stage in the spirit of global Britain,” he said. 

“Where are we? If the United States doesn't step forward, as occasionally it hesitates, Britain has a moral duty to lead the West.

“I really am flabbergasted as to why we're not doing more, and recognising that we could easily lead a coalition.”

Parliament is due to be recalled early from its summer recess on Wednesday to allow MPs time to debate the UK’s response to the situation — a move strongly welcomed by Ellwood.

He urged his colleagues to make their voices heard in the Commons this week, adding: “When enough MPs make noise then Number 10 and the Prime Minister are good at listening. 

“I would strongly encourage my colleagues to recognise that we will be haunted by our decision to retreat, with what we are already seeing the evidence that already shows the dark chapter that could unfold.” 

He continued: “People will look back at this moment, at this juncture now, in a year's time and wonder, why didn't we do more? So all I can do is make noise and plead to my colleagues to say, let's not follow the Americans' suit.”

Writing for the Mirror earlier on Sunday, Ellwood described the decision to withdraw troops from the region as “a strategic error” and “the biggest own goal the West has made so far this century”.

He warned that the new regime could become a “breeding ground” for the recruitment and training of terrorist groups.

“It is only a matter of time before we endure another 9/11 style attack symbolically ‘book ending’ the West’s time in Afghanistan. This departure leaves us all less secure.”

Labour leader Keir Starmer has also commented on what he perceived to be a lack of leadership in the UK on the developing situation in Afghanistan. “The government has been silent as Afghanistan collapses which will have ramifications in the UK,” Starmer tweeted.

It comes after shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy described the government’s messaging as “simply not good enough” on Saturday.

She told LBC: “With political will and with concerted and coordinated action from the United Nations and from NATO, we could turn this situation around and we could support the Afghan people to get that secure, stable state that we promised them. That's what we've got to do."

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