UK vows not to back down on Afghanistan despite embassy withdrawal

What we must do now is not turn our backs on Afghanistan, said Boris Johnson (FILE)

London:

Britain will not leave Afghanistan, Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised on Friday, even as he confirmed the imminent withdrawal of most embassy staff in the face of the rapid Taliban attack.

With Islamists taking control of more Afghan cities, Britain is deploying around 600 soldiers to help evacuate its roughly 3,000 citizens from the country, and Johnson said the “vast majority” of the remaining embassy staff in Kabul would return to the United Kingdom.

Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw US troops, forcing NATO allies to do the same, “leaves a very big problem on the ground” and gave the Taliban a boost. .

He predicted that it would benefit Al-Qaeda, who were given safe haven by the Taliban before the September 11, 2001 attacks that sparked the West’s 20-year involvement in Afghanistan.

Johnson, however, said after convening crisis talks with senior cabinet colleagues that the West retains a strategic interest in backing the embattled Kabul government.

“I think we have to be realistic about the power of the UK or any power to impose a military solution, a combat solution, in Afghanistan,” he told reporters.

“What we can certainly do is work with all of our partners in the region, around the world, who share with us an interest in preventing Afghanistan from once again becoming a breeding ground for terror.

“What we must do now is not turn our backs on Afghanistan,” he stressed, adding that Britain could be “extremely proud” of its role in the country, especially in advancing girls’ education, achievements that are now under way. endangered by the Taliban. Advance.

The prime minister added that UK Home Office officials were flying to Kabul to help Afghan interpreters who served with the UK military apply for resettlement in Britain.

Many of the translators have complained that the British are dragging their feet and say they now fear for their lives given the risk of retaliation from the Taliban.

‘Total betrayal’

Speaking previously on Sky News, Wallace said that Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump had struck a “rotten deal” with the Taliban that allowed the United States to end its longest war, echoing the UK warlords who have attacked. savagely retreat.

Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the House of Commons select committee on foreign affairs, told the BBC: “We just pulled the rug out of you,” referring to the Afghan people.

The Conservative MP, a former reservist soldier who served in Afghanistan, added that Britain’s need to send more troops to facilitate its withdrawal was “a sure sign of failure.”

Former International Development Minister Rory Stewart called the withdrawal “a total betrayal by the United States and the United Kingdom” that risked sparking a civil war between rival warlords currently fighting the Taliban.

Johnny Mercer, a Conservative MP and former veteran minister who also fought as an army officer in Afghanistan, called the withdrawal “a disgrace.”

“I think it is humiliating for the UK military, for the families who lost people there, but above all it is a great tragedy for the people of Afghanistan, who have been through so much for so many years,” he told Times Radio.

“We have chosen this defeat and it is shameful.”

Northern Ireland Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie, who served three tours of Afghanistan with the British Army, said ordinary Afghans would pay the price.

“We raised the expectations of the Afghan people that we would create something better for them,” he told Irish state broadcaster RTE.

“And we are going to crush it with our inactivity … We have made strategic failures, and the last one is to leave Afghanistan as quickly as we have done and without a political agreement.”

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)

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