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Johnson, Biden castigated in UK Parliament for deserting Afghans

27th Aug 2021
Johnson, Biden castigated in UK Parliament for deserting Afghans

Afghan family wait at Kabul Int Airport to be allowed to leave (Credit:Aykut Karadag/AA)

Hamed Chapman

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and US President Joe Biden have come under an unprecedented barrage of criticism from MPs of all sides in the British Parliament for abandoning Afghanistan after 20 years of virtual military occupation.

In an unprecedented rebuke of the rapid withdrawal, Biden was accused of “throwing us and everybody else to the fire” by pulling out US troops in such a “catastrophic” and “shameful” way, while being called “dishonourable” for criticising Afghan forces for not having the will to fight.

During the emergency House of Commons debate on August 18, former ministers lined up to express their anger and frustration also at the Johnson Government’s failures, including his predecessor Theresa May saying it was “incomprehensible” that the UK was not doing more to maintain a presence after being in the country for 20 years.

Labour Leader, Sir Keir Starmer, accused Johnson of “staggering complacency”, Liberal Democrats Leader, Sir Ed Davey, branded the Prime Minister a “national liability” who could not “escape culpability for this disaster”, while Tory Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Tom Tugendhat, said it felt like “defeat.”

The PM was left humiliated in attempting to justify the retreat from Afghanistan that allowed the Taliban to seize the country in a matter of days when he and his Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, who acts as his deputy, were on holiday and seemingly reluctant to return.

Raab was under pressure to resign for remaining on holiday in Crete until after Kabul fell to the Taliban; he was also embroiled in an internal row for not helping Afghan interpreters and students.

As British and US troops struggled to evacuate thousands of their nationals and Afghan interpreters from Kabul Airport, Johnson maintained that the “core mission” had succeeded despite the rapid collapse of Ashraf Ghani’s Government that was left to run the country.

“It would be fair to say that the events in Afghanistan have unfolded faster, and the collapse has been faster than I think even the Taliban themselves predicted. What is not true is to say that the UK Government were unprepared or did not foresee this because it was certainly part of our planning,” he argued.

“The very difficult logistical operation for the withdrawal of UK nationals has been under preparation for many months, and I can tell the House that the decision to commission the emergency handling centre at the airport—the commissioning of that centre—took place two weeks ago,” he maintained.

But May called NATO’s withdrawal “a major setback for British foreign policy” and said it was “incomprehensible and worrying” that the UK Government could not put together an “alternative alliance of countries” to continue to support the Afghan Government in the absence of US forces.

In his defense, Johnson acknowledged that US withdrawal from Afghanistan had forced Britain’s hand, but insisted it was an “illusion” to think other allies wanted to keep the peace, and even suggested the UK might be willing to recognize the Taliban.

“The West could not continue this US-led mission—a mission conceived and executed in support and defence of America—without American logistics, without US airpower and without American might,” he also cast the blame on Washington.

In fierce speech Zarah Sultana highlighted the human losses in the 20-year war. She said it “was a mistake of catastrophic proportions, causing untold human tragedy, with 240,000 people killed—men, women and children—including tens of thousands of innocent Afghan civilians and 457 British personnel. This House must never again send British service personnel to die in futile wars.”

Quoting from an earlier article by Johnson on democratising Afghanistan, “We are in Afghanistan to teach them the value of democracy,” the MP for Coventry South said, “Today, after 20 years of bloodshed, it is incumbent on us to learn that democracy cannot be bombed into existence.”

In a parallel debate in the House of Lords, former defence chiefs who led British troops in the Middle East were also among those to speak out, while there were warnings that the West’s withdrawal would embolden Russia and China to move into the vacuum left in Afghanistan.

Regarding Biden, the former head of the British army, Lord Dannatt, said that “at a stroke, he has undermined the patient and painstaking work of the last five, 10, 15 years to build up governance in Afghanistan, develop its economy, transform its civil society and build up its security forces.”

“I strongly believe that the whole campaign in Afghanistan should be the subject of a public inquiry, to be convened in the coming months,” Dannatt said, suggesting that it should not be drawn out but its scope should include the reasons that took the UK into Afghanistan in 2001, the debate around nation-building, the effect of the 2003 Iraq war, relations with allies and decisions about withdrawing.)

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Over 120 people attended a landmark conference on the media reporting of Islam and Muslims. It was held jointly by The Muslim News and Society of Editors in London on September 15.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence 2015 was held on March in London to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to the society.

The Muslim News Awards for Excellence event is to acknowledge British Muslim and non-Muslim contributions to society. Over 850 people from diverse background, Muslim and non-Muslim, attended the gala dinner.

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