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Tony Blair Says The Decision To Withdraw From Afghanistan Was “Imbecilic” As Seven Die At Airport Scramble

Tony Blair has rounded on the decision to withdraw the remaining US and UK troops from Afghanistan (Alamy)

4 min read

Tony Blair has heavily criticised the decision the Western military withdrawal from Afghanistan saying it was done “in obedience to an imbecilic political slogan”.

The former prime minister, who made the decision to send the UK’s Armed Forces into the country 20 years ago, says Britain has a "moral obligation" to stay until "all those who need to be are evacuated".

After the Taliban swept back into power this month Blair said the removal of the final American troops was "tragic, dangerous, unnecessary,” and will have "every Jihadist group round the world cheering".

In a 2,700-word article published this weekend he said it “is so obvious that the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan in this way was driven not by grand strategy but by politics.”

"We didn't need to do it. We chose to do it,” he wrote.

"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, in circumstances in which troop numbers had declined to a minimum and no allied soldier had lost their life in combat for 18 months.”

His comments come amid deteriorating relations between the UK and America, with Cabinet insiders suggesting president Joe Biden was “gaga” and “doolally” for withdrawing so fast.

The Sunday Times also carries incendiary claims Boris Johnson has privately referred to him as “Sleepy Joe”, the nickname coined by Donald Trump, although Downing Street has called them “categorically untrue”.

Biden has signalled he wanted evacuations from Kabul airport completed by the end of the month, which would likely force Britain to wrap up its operation at the same time.

But Blair hit back: "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.

"There must be no repetition of arbitrary deadlines. We have a moral obligation to keep at it until all those who need to be are evacuated.

"And we should do so not grudgingly but out of a deep sense of humanity and responsibility."

It comes as the Ministry of Defence said seven Afghan civilians had died in the chaotic crowds outside Kabul's international airport.

"Our sincere thoughts are with the families of the seven Afghan civilians who have sadly died in crowds in Kabul," said a spokesman.

"Conditions on the ground remain extremely challenging but we are doing everything we can to manage the situation as safely and securely as possible.”

The UK has said it will offer its "complete support" to the US if Biden opts to extend the deadline for withdrawing troops as the evacuation situation worsened.

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, defence secretary Ben Wallace said: "If the US timetable remains, we have no time to lose to get the majority of the people waiting out.

"Perhaps the Americans will be permitted to stay longer, and they will have our complete support if they do.”

Under-fire foreign secretary Dominic Raab is also seeking to speak to his opposite number, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, to discuss extending the end-of-the-month deadline.

But he faces further questions about his own conduct after claims he was ordered to return from his holiday as the Afghan government begun to collapse, but did not arrive back in the UK until two days later, by which time the capital had fallen to the Taliban.

Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy shared a letter on social media that she had sent Raab about the "crisis" facing evacuees, saying Labour MPs had been hearing of people being "shot at, beaten and raped" while they wait to be called forward at the airport.

She is calling for additional assistance for those on the ground after reports the Baron Hotel in Kabul where many British nationals are being told to travel to for processing is being blockaded by insurgents.

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