Tony Blair: Fall of Afghanistan could become threat to UK's security

22 August 2021, 14:52

Tony Blair has spoken out on Afghanistan again
Tony Blair has spoken out on Afghanistan again. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Tony Blair has called on the UK and the rest of the G7 to devise a way of dealing with the new Taliban regime to ensure "we don't end up with a security threat".

The former prime minister, who originally deployed British troops to Afghanistan, followed up on remarks on Saturday, when he called the withdrawal of international forces "tragic, dangerous, unnecessary".

He told broadcasters on Sunday: "We should be putting together the leading countries who are part of this coalition in the first place and who have supported Afghanistan in the last 20 years and we need to work out what our strategy and tactics are going to be in respect of the Taliban government.

"We need to be drawing up a list of incentives and sanctions and other things we can do in order to use the leverage we have, which is not insignificant.

"The Taliban will find that governing is a lot harder than they thought. The population of Afghanistan is different.

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"There's going to be a lot that we can still do but it's important that we mobilise now after the disarray frankly of the last few weeks, that we mobilise as the leading countries and make it clear that we still understand we have an obligation in our own interests to try and resolve this situation and to put as much pressure on the government in Afghanistan as possible to make sure that we don't end up either with a security threat in play for us or with the Afghan people losing the gains they've made over the last 20 years."

Boris Johnson is due to hold a G7 meeting on Tuesday so leaders can discuss Afghanistan.

Mr Blair was sharply critical of US President Joe Biden. He called the decision to leave "imbecilic" in his remarks on Saturday.

He said "we could've managed the situation" and now the issue is not just the Afghan people who will suffer, but Britain's security could be at risk too.

"Because you've now got this group back in charge of Afghanistan," he said.

“They will give protection and succour to al Qaeda, you've got Isis (Islamic State) already in the country trying to operate at the same time. You look round the world and the only people really cheering this decision are the people hostile to Western interests."

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He went on: "It's only in the last few weeks, when you read the really heart-rending accounts by people of what they fear under the Taliban, that you realise there were a lot of gains in the past 20 years.

"The problem is that the West has to understand that, when we do something like this, the signal it sends out is one of inconstancy. In the world we have today, you've got sometimes to commit for the long term.

"Even if it becomes unpopular from time to time in public opinion, your job then, as leader, is to go out and explain why it's necessary, despite that, to hold firm.

"Because, when you don't hold firm, then those people who are opposed to you - whether these are Islamist groups or Russia, China, Iran, all of whom will move into the vacuum we've created - all those people who are not on our side and who don't wish us well are going to gain by it."

Seven people were confirmed to have died around Kabul where international forces are trying to airlift their citizens and Afghans fleeing the Taliban's regime.

It is feared the group will return to restricting women's rights and mount reprisals against those who worked with the Afghan republic and coalition forces.

The group insists it is more moderate than when it previously ruled Afghanistan and there are hopes it has learned its lesson from when it was overthrown in 2001 and will not harbour terror groups looking to strike other countries.

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