Boris Johnson condemned by MPs from all parties over handling of Afghanistan crisis

18 August 2021, 09:39 | Updated: 19 August 2021, 00:15

By Will Taylor

Boris Johnson has come under fire from MPs from all parties over the abrupt withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.

Parliament was recalled on Wednesday for an emergency debate on the ongoing developments in the country after the Taliban swept to power.

The militants seized control of the capital Kabul after days of rapid gains saw the Afghan military crumble and the president flee the country.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer accused the PM and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab of a "dereliction of duty" over Afghanistan by opting to go on holiday.

He taunted the pair as he told MPs: "You cannot co-ordinate an international response from the beach."

Sir Keir earlier accused Mr Johnson of "complacency" over the situation in Afghanistan, noting there were "just two passing references" to Afghanistan in the integrated review of security defence, development and policy.

He said MPs on both sides of Commons warned in July that the Government "may be underestimating the threat of the Taliban".

Sir Keir went on: "That was ignored. And the Government's preparations for withdrawal were based on a miscalculation of the resilience of the Afghan forces, and a staggering complacency about the Taliban threat. The Prime Minister is as guilty as anyone."

Read more: Taliban 'beat and whip' crowds as regime tightens grip on Afghanistan

'We're not trained to lose': Veteran MPs condemn 'shameful' Afghanistan withdrawal

Former PM Theresa May was among a number MPs from all parties to make critical speeches aimed at Mr Johnson.

She suggested the Prime Minister hoped "on a wing and a prayer it'd be all right on the night" in Afghanistan - before warning that the UK faces an increased terror threat.

Addressing the House, Conservative MP Mrs May said: "In July this year, both President Biden and the Prime Minister indicated that they did not think the Taliban was ready or able to take over control of the country.

"Was our intelligence really so poor? Was our understanding of the Afghan government so weak? Was our knowledge of the position on the ground so inadequate? Or did we really believe this? Or did we feel we just had to follow the United States and hope that on a wing and a prayer it'd be all right on the night?"

Meanwhile former soldier Tom Tugendhat warned Afghanistan "damn well feels like" defeat, as he urged a fresh "vision" must be developed to help.

The Conservative MP, who served in Afghanistan, was applauded following an emotive speech in which he also recalled his experiences in the country.

He ended by recalling his time as an adviser to the governor of Helmand and the "joy" given to families by the opening of schools for girls.

He left MPs with "the image of a man whose name I never knew, carrying a child who had died hours earlier, carrying this child into our fire base and begging for help.

"There was nothing we could do. It was over.

"This is what defeat looks like when you no longer have the choice of how to help.

"This doesn't need to be defeat but at the moment it damn well feels like it."

Attention has now turned to the mass evacuation at Hamid Karzai International airport and whether human rights - particularly women's - will be respected under the new regime.

Taliban leaders have insisted they will enjoy rights under Islamic rules, but there are fears a strict version of Sharia law will be imposed upon them.

Speaking in the House of Commons on Wednesday, Mr Johnson said the group will be judged on their actions and not their words.

Meanwhile, Mr Raab, who was cut off at 5pm by Speaker of the House Sir Lindsay Hoyle, told MPs the UK Government is "providing a lifeline for the most vulnerable" Afghans.

"As the son of a refugee I am deeply proud that this government is continuing the big-hearted tradition of the British people of offering a safe haven to those fleeing persecution​," he said.

Read more: UK resettlement scheme could give up to 20,000 Afghans refugee status

'It's all over for us': Pregnant woman blinded by Taliban fears for Afghan women

The foreign secretary added that there will be eight more evacuation flights leaving Kabul today.

It comes after the first flight of its kind departed from the capital on Sunday carrying around 150 UK nationals and their dependents.

He said: "In the last 24 hours, 646 people have been evacuated - a combination of nationals, Afghans who work for us and UK allies - and there will be eight flights following today."

Watch the House of Commons debate again above.