Biden's Afghanistan withdrawal branded 'mistake' by ex-MI6 Chief

1 May 2021, 09:23

EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Former MI6 Chief Sir Richard Dearlove has branded America's withdrawal from Afghanistan a 'mistake'.

With the final phase of America's "forever war" in Afghanistan ending after 20 years LBC's Tom Swarbrick discussed the issue with the former head of MI6 Sir Richard Dearlove.

Tom asked Sir Richard if Britain has been made safer by its involvement in the conflict in Afghanistan.

"Yes, I think to an extent it has," the former chief spy replied. Adding he felt it was a "mistake now to withdraw."

US president Joe Biden had set May 1 as the official start of the withdrawal of the remaining forces - about 2,500-3,500 US troops and 7,000 Nato soldiers.

Sir Richard, head of the Secret Intelligence Service, better known as MI6, from 1999 to 2004 said he did not agree with the Biden policy to remove troops from the country.

He told LBC the UK should continue its training commitment to the Afghan army and "try to give the Afghans more steel."

When Tom asked "how long do you give it," the former MI6 Chief said he thought it "could be a long haul."

Sir Richard said he was "not arguing for the massive development of troops," but instead wanted to see "the continued training and equipping of Afghan forces to fight this battle."

"You can't really afford now to have these geopolitical vacuums when there are such potent threats," Sir Richard warned.

The US, UK and Nato allies went into Afghanistan together on October 7 2001 to hunt the al-Qaida perpetrators of the 9/11 terrorist attacks who lived under the protection of the country's Taliban rulers.

Two months later, the Taliban had been defeated and al-Qaida fighters and their leader, Osama bin Laden, were on the run.

In his withdrawal announcement last month, Mr Biden said the initial mission was accomplished a decade ago when US Navy Seals killed bin Laden in his hideout in neighbouring Pakistan.

Since then, he said, al-Qaida has been degraded, while the terrorist threat has "metastasised" into a global phenomenon that is not contained by keeping thousands of troops in one country.

Afghans have paid the highest price since 2001, with 47,245 civilians killed, according to the Costs of War project. Millions more have been displaced inside Afghanistan or have fled to Pakistan, Iran and Europe.

Afghanistan's security forces are expected to come under increasing pressure from the Taliban after the withdrawal if no peace agreement is reached in the interim, according to Afghan experts.

Since the start of the war they have taken heavy losses, with estimates ranging from 66,000 to 69,000 Afghan troops killed.

The Afghan military has been battered by corruption. The US and Nato pay four billion dollars (£2.88 billion) a year to sustain the force.

Some 300,000 Afghan troops are on the books, although the actual number is believed to be lower.