West will face more terror attacks after Taliban victory, ex-MI5 boss warns

18 August 2021, 21:12 | Updated: 24 August 2021, 09:51

Baroness Manningham-Buller warned the West could face more terror attacks now the Taliban are in power
Baroness Manningham-Buller warned the West could face more terror attacks now the Taliban are in power. Picture: Alamy
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

More terror attacks will be carried out against the West now the Taliban has taken over in Afghanistan, a former MI5 chief has warned.

Pulling out US and coalition forces from the central Asian nation and its takeover by militants will "excite, encourage and spur terrorists" and create a "safe space" for extremists, Baroness Manningham-Buller told Parliament on Wednesday.

The independent crossbencher - who served for more than three decades in the Security Service, including five years as director general - made her pessimistic prediction during a House of Lords debate on the crisis in Afghanistan.

She was among several peers to warn of the increased terror threat after the Taliban seized power in Kabul.

Lady Manningham-Buller also highlighted the need "to begin when appropriate a dialogue with the Taliban, however unpalatable, to explore incentives for good behaviour".

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Warning of "two major security concerns", she said: "First, inspiration. The Taliban victory and its rout of western forces, as it appears, will inspire and embolden those who wish to promote jihad against the West.

"Events over the last few days show that the success of this ideology is possible. That will excite, encourage and spur terrorists."

The success of the militants would also create a "safe space" for extremists, Baroness Manningham-Buller told the Lords.

She said: "Even if we believe the Taliban that it will not allow terrorists to operate from its territory, I doubt it could stop that happening.

"The border with Pakistan is porous, its Government supportive of the Taliban and there's plenty of room to recruit, plot and train a new generation of terrorists."

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She added: "I wish I could end on a more positive note and maybe my pessimism is misjudged, but I expect more terrorism directed against the West based on extreme Islamist ideology."

Former Nato secretary-general Lord Robertson of Port Ellen also warned the retreat from Afghanistan will "strengthen" the UK's adversaries.

Outlining a series of steps needed, the Labour ex-defence secretary said: "We need to prepare for an increased terrorist threat here."

He added: "When I was Nato secretary-general I repeatedly warned the Nato countries and the wider world that we had to go Afghanistan or Afghanistan will come to use. I greatly fear that is just what is going to happen."

Tory former chancellor Lord Hammond of Runnymede, who also previously served as defence secretary, described Afghanistan as "a catastrophic failure of western policy".

He said: "Today, the victims are Afghans, particularly Afghan women and girls. Tomorrow, however, the victims might be our citizens if our streets once again echo to the sound of Afghan-based terrorism."

Conservative former leader Lord Howard of Lymne argued the decision by US President Joe Biden to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan "is, and will be seen by history as, a catastrophic mistake which may well prove to be the defining legacy of his presidency".

He said: "It is a mistake which will, I fear, have calamitous consequences.

"First, for the people of Afghanistan, and especially its women.

"Secondly, for the countries, including European countries, to which many of these people will seek to flee.

"Thirdly, for the security of ourselves and our friends and allies, who will once again be vulnerable to attack from that country."

He added: "It has been widely reported that those loyal to al Qaida and Islamic State have been fighting alongside the Taliban. They will expect their support to be rewarded."

Ex-Navy chief Lord West of Spithead, a former UK military commander in Afghanistan, said: "The international community cannot allow Afghanistan to become a haven for global terrorists again.

"It needs to be made clear to the Taliban that, if ever Afghanistan harbours international terrorists and training camps, as it did prior to 9/11, Nato will return to smash them and those responsible for allowing them to flourish before withdrawing again."

Opening the debate, Tory Lords leader Baroness Evans of Bowes Park told peers: "Nato and our allies will remain vigilant to the return of the terrorist threat from Afghanistan.

"Everyone has an interest in making sure that it does not again become a safe haven for terrorists.

"The Taliban must understand that they will be accountable for that and for any abuses that take place in the territory that they now control."