My Intervention during the Debate on the Situation in Afghanistan

John Redwood Conservative, Wokingham

Does my right hon. Friend have any advice for the Government on how they could take action to try to prevent the recurrence of a terrorist threat under Taliban control?

Tobias Ellwood Chair, Defence Committee, Chair, Defence Committee, Chair, Defence Sub-Committee, Chair, Defence Sub-Committee

My fear is that there will be an attack on the lines of 9/11 to bookend what happened 20 years ago, to show the futility of 20 years. We should never have left—I will come to that in a second—because after 20 years of effort, this is a humiliating strategic defeat for the west. The Taliban control more territory today than they did before 9/11.

I was born in the United States; I am a proud dual national and passionate about the transatlantic security alliance. Prior to him declaring his candidacy, I worked directly with President Biden on veterans’ mental health issues. He was the keynote speaker at a veterans reception here in the House of Commons, as my guest, so it gives me no joy to criticise the President and say that the decision to withdraw, which he inherited, but then chose to endorse, was absolutely the wrong call. Yes, two decades is a long time. It has been a testing chapter for Afghanistan, so the US election promise to return troops was obviously a popular one, but it was a false narrative.

First, the notion that we gave the Afghans every opportunity over 20 years to progress, and that the country cannot be helped forever so it is time to come home, glosses over the hurdles—the own goals—that we created after the invasion. We denied the Taliban a seat at the table back in 2001. They asked to attend the Bonn talks but Donald Rumsfeld said no, so they crossed the Pakistan border to rearm, regroup and retrain. How different the last few decades would have been had they been included. Secondly, we did not start training the Afghan forces until 2005, by which time the Taliban were already on the advance. Finally, we imposed a western model of governance, which was completely inappropriate for Afghanistan, with all the power in Kabul. That was completely wrong for a country where loyalty is on a tribal and local level. That is not to dismiss the mass corruption, cronyism and elitism that is rife across Afghanistan, but those schoolboy errors in stabilisation hampered progress and made our mission harder.

There is also the notion that we cannot fight a war forever. We have not been fighting for the last three years. The US and the UK have not lost a single soldier, but we had a minimalist force there—enough assistance to give the Afghan forces the ability to contain the Taliban and, by extension, give legitimacy to the Afghan Government. The US has more personnel based in its embassy here than it had troops in Afghanistan before retreating. Both the US and the UK have long-term commitments across the world, which we forget about. Japan, Germany and Korea have been mentioned. There is Djibouti, Niger, Jordan and Iraq, and ourselves in Cyprus and Kenya, for example, and the Falklands, too. It is the endurance that counts. Success is not rated on when we return troops home. Such presence offers assurance, represents commitment, bolsters regional stability, and assists with building and strengthening the armed forces. That is exactly what we were doing in Afghanistan.

Last year, the Taliban were finally at the negotiation table in Doha, but in a rush to get a result, Trump struck a deal with the Taliban—by the way, without the inclusion of the Afghan Government—and committed to a timetable for drawdown. All the Taliban had to do was wait. The final question is about whether the UK can lead or participate in a coalition without the US. Where is our foreign policy determined—here or in Washington? Our Government should have more confidence in themselves.



  1. Nota#
    August 19, 2021

    Sir John
    “Does my right hon. Friend have any advice for the Government on how they could take action to try to prevent the recurrence of a terrorist threat under Taliban control?”

    Good Question

    Synopsis of the answer. ‘Well Nothing, I and my Government haven’t a clue the power or the will to ensure the safety and security of the UK.’

  2. Nota#
    August 19, 2021

    Sir John – How do we in the UK create a Parliament and a Government with members that like you that have the interest and well being of the UK as their central aim and purpose.

    Keep up the good work on our behalf

  3. Peter
    August 19, 2021

    Ellwood is useless on most issues.

    I am not interested in his pontificating.

  4. formula57
    August 19, 2021

    Poor old Tobias doesn’t have a clue, does he.

    1. Mitchel
      August 20, 2021

      Just another wannabee member of the Anglo-American globalist elite that is now -rightfully-fearing for it’s survival.

  5. Fedupsoutherner
    August 19, 2021

    Obviously John, the safety of British citizens is an after thought. The government only thinks about that after its happened

  6. Micky Taking
    August 19, 2021

    ‘Our Government should have more confidence in themselves.’
    The final line from Mr Elwood is telling. There is growing sympathy reaching government with the mood of the electorate. Frustration, disillusion and impatience.

  7. MiC
    August 19, 2021

    Vote Leave!!!!!

    Oh, er, um, er, ooh er….

    1. Peter2
      August 19, 2021

      You are so obsessed you cannot see any event without trying to tie it to us voting to leave the EU.

      1. MiC
        August 19, 2021

        Not quite – but didn’t many Leave promoters claim that it would be the end to all of the UK’s problems re refugees etc.?

        Didn’t someone stand in front of a poster of such supposed people, with the words “breaking point” emblazoned over it?

        After all, they just “walked” into the European Union and were “showered with passports like confetti”, entitling them to come here “which they all wanted to do”? (In fact just a few percent wanted the UK)

        Didn’t they?

        (No, none of those things were remotely true)

        1. Peter2
          August 19, 2021

          No they didn’t claim that MiC
          Independence was the top reason.

          1. MiC
            August 20, 2021

            Stop being so downright silly Peter.

            You know perfectly well that those claims were made either expressly or implicitly by picture publicity as I described.

            Not only that but also that millions of Turkish people would soon be coming too if the UK had remained a member.

            That was the real Project Fear, wasn’t it?

          2. Peter2
            August 20, 2021

            Just because you are like to play your race card at every opportunity and are an obsessed remainer and therefore disagree with anything said in favour of our vote to leave the EU doesn’t mean that any such posts are “downright silly”
            Just banging on about immigration via our EU enforced obligations to have freedom of movement is the downright silly thing.
            Sovereignty was the main reason people voted to leave.
            The referendum result is something you still have not come to terms with, years later.

    2. Micky Taking
      August 19, 2021

      and your point is?

    3. Fedupsoutherner
      August 19, 2021

      MIC. Oh for God’s sake give it a rest. You are soooooo boring.

      1. Micky Taking
        August 20, 2021

        not so much boring, mostly bitter and twisted.

  8. Bob Dixon
    August 19, 2021

    We must stop supporting the USA in their wars. It does us harm.

    Our Political system needs radicle improvements as yesterdays debate shows.
    Where are the big beast who can command their ministries? Who can help a Prime Minister?

    We were struggling before joining the EU. We are still struggling now we have left.

    The interventions of living past Prime Minister, have been pathetic

  9. No Longer Anonymous
    August 19, 2021

    But the simple question people want answered but is never asked by the BBC or anyone is Parliament is how are the refugees being scrutinised and vetted so that we know they are not going to hurt us ?

    I am also concerned that we are accelerating the growth of a hardline religion which has exalted status and special protection which cannot be mocked nor scrutinised, unlike all others, on pain of death by fatwa or even prosecution by our own police.

    We have a teacher in hiding for daring to teach a class about Islam, a situation which is being ignored by the Tories.

    The direction of travel is obvious.

    I don’t care what the Tories are doing for girls and gays in Afghanistan when they don’t even seem to care about the future of girls or gays in the UK.

  10. ukretired123
    August 19, 2021

    Good summary by Mr Ellwood of the true nature of Afghan affairs except blaming Trump (as he admitted he worked alongside and for Biden).

  11. Original Richard
    August 19, 2021

    Sir John : “Does my right hon. Friend have any advice for the Government on how they could take action to try to prevent the recurrence of a terrorist threat under Taliban control?”

    I would start by stopping the large and incessant invasion of migrants (legal and illegal) from the Middle East and Africa. Illegal migrants should not be encouraged by the offer of 4 star hotel accommodation, meals and healthcare (including dentistry), ÂŁ40/week spending money and the freedom to roam our streets until they feel the time is right to abscond.

    The ME and Africa is composed of many tribes and just because a tribe is fleeing persecution from another does not mean they are pro-Western and willing to accept our values and live accordingly.

    If Parliament decides to go to the aid of ME refugees it should do so by supporting these refugees to go to other Islamic countries where their strong religious beliefs and 7th century ways of life are compatible with the indigenous population.

  12. Geoffrey Berg
    August 19, 2021

    I absolutely think Western forces should have stayed in Afghanistan to avert the disaster that has now occurred but very reluctantly I agree with Boris Johnson (and not Teresa May) that once the USA decided to withdraw quickly we had no sensible option other than to withdraw as we probably lack the military resources to fight a long guerrilla war across the whole of Afghanistan and we would not get any other substantial countries to fight alongside us. I blame Biden and not Johnson for this fiasco.

  13. Lindsay McDougall
    August 23, 2021

    Sir John asked how we could counter new terrorism from the Taliban/Afghanistan. I gave a coherent and specific answer in terms of retaliatory air strikes at two levels depending upon whether the terrorism was inaugurated only by the Afghan Government or had widespread popular support throughout that country. My comment never made it past Sir John’s ‘editor’, presumably because one proposed response was severe.

Comments are closed.