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West 'closer to another 9/11' following Afghanistan pullout, ex MoD chief tells LBC

10 September 2021, 10:20 | Updated: 10 September 2021, 11:10

By Joe Cook

The former chief of the UK defence staff has said we are closer to "another 9/11" in the wake of the US and UK's withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and the resurgence of the Taliban.

Speaking to LBC's Nick Ferrari ahead of the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, General Lord Richards said the events had "dominated" his professional life.

"Once you've served in Afghanistan you feel very committed to it and to the people and to what we are trying to achieve.

But he added, looking back "it is ironic that President Biden evacuated American and other forces with the purpose of timing it with the 20th anniversary and yet as a result of that decision we are pitched back into an era that could be even worse than the 90s and 2000s that led to 9/11."

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Despite the US and UK government suggestions that the West has been made safer due to the invasion of Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks, Lord Richards said in his view "we are" now closer to another 9/11.

"We've now been pitched back into a dark period which we somehow have to manage," he warned.

"I fear the Taliban and some extremist jihadist groups are, whatever they like to say, in each other's pockets, scores will be settled, debts will have to be repaid and there will be ungoverned space opened up in Afghanistan which those groups will exploit and the ability of the Taliban to actually manage them will be minimal."

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The strong caution comes as the US prepares to mark the 20th anniversary of the attacks which killed 2,996 people and led to a sea-change in world politics.

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden will visit three sites where hijacked flights came down: the World Trade Centre, the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

The crash in Pennsylvania happened after the passengers of the hijacked jet fought back before it could reach its target, thought to be the US Capitol or the White House.