HomeUK NewsAfghanistan crisis: Children 'left behind in Kabul' as British passport holders plead...

Afghanistan crisis: Children ‘left behind in Kabul’ as British passport holders plead to escape


A British man stuck in Afghanistan has today been filmed waving a UK passport while pleading with Boris Johnson: ‘Get me and my kids out of here’. 

Speaking with a strong northern accent, the man is seen telling ITV film crews outside a temporary British embassy in Kabul that the army is refusing to let him into Kabul airport. 

The footage then cuts to two children who have allegedly been left behind in the streets after their parents were allowed into the embassy ‘without them.’

Flashing a British passport as he made his desperate plea, the man told ITV: ‘I’m a British citizen, my kids are British and we’re stuck here, they closed the door on us and they’re shooting at us.

‘My message for the prime minister is, just get us out of here otherwise my kids are struggling and we’re all in a big mess here.

‘The British Army is right behind these fences, they’ve closed the gate and they’re not letting no one in.’    

It comes as dozens tried to enter a temporary British embassy but were turned away without an explanation while surrounding Taliban fighters fired guns into the air in the shocking scenes.

Some called out Joe Biden and Boris Johnson for abandoning them as the Taliban take hold, with only eight days until the US set its deadline for withdrawing all troops from the country.

Meanwhile, the UK today warned there are ‘hours not weeks’ left for the Kabul airlift as it scrambles to double numbers to 12,000 – while Boris Johnson pleads with to delay the US withdrawal from Afghanistan.  

Desperate British citizens are being blocked from escaping Afghanistan and are waving their passports at officials in a bid to flee

Two children were apparently left at Kabul airport after their parents were one of the few allowed to evacuate amid the chaos

In the distressing footage, two crying children are seen after they were reportedly left abandoned

Two children were apparently left at Kabul airport after their parents were one of the few allowed to evacuate amid the chaos

There are claims Taliban guards are dispersing crowds by firing gunshots into the air amid the frantic efforts to escape

There are claims Taliban guards are dispersing crowds by firing gunshots into the air amid the frantic efforts to escape

One of the men stranded said: ‘Mr Biden, you did this. You planned this. You made the deal with the Taliban.

‘This is the consequences of it. This is the repercussions of it. Mr Biden, it’s your ill-calculation. You were against Trump, now we’re against you. Go to hell Biden.’

An Afghan interpreter who had worked for a year with the Royal Marines in Helmand Province was also among those struggling to flee the country.

He had been waiting outside the temporary embassy all night with his wife and children desperate to escape. He said: ‘I need help from the UK.’

British forces have been snatching rest between the exhausting efforts to organise the airlift from Kabul

British forces have been snatching rest between the exhausting efforts to organise the airlift from Kabul

Lt Cdr Alex Pelham Burns, part of the UK deployment, helps children waiting to be evacuated from Kabul airport

Lt Cdr Alex Pelham Burns, part of the UK deployment, helps children waiting to be evacuated from Kabul airport

Taliban threatens ‘consequences’ if airlift deadline extended 

The Taliban has said it will ‘provoke a reaction’ and has threatened ‘consequences’ if the US or UK do not leave Afghanistan by August 31 and extend the deadline for the withdrawal of troops.

President Joe Biden wants all Americans to have left the country by the end of the month although he admitted on Sunday night that an extension was under discussion, while this morning UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the evacuation effort is ‘down to hours now, not weeks’.

Taliban spokesman Dr Suhail Shaheen said the group will not accept an extension to the deadline and warned of retaliation if Western forces extend their ‘occupation’ since the group dramatically swept to power.

He told Sky News: ‘It’s a red line. President Biden announced that on 31 August they would withdraw all their military forces. So if they extend it that means they are extending occupation while there is no need for that.

‘If the US or UK were to seek additional time to continue evacuations – the answer is no. Or there would be consequences.

‘It will create mistrust between us. If they are intent on continuing the occupation it will provoke a reaction.’ 

Another stranded was Paralympian Zakia Khudadadi who was due to compete in Tokyo in taekwondo and become Afghanistan’s first woman to represent the country at the Games. 

It comes as Britain, France and Germany all joined pleas for Joe Biden to delay the US withdrawal from Afghanistan today.

As the desperate evacuation continues, the PM will use a virtual meeting of world leaders tomorrow to push for more time to save people from the clutches of the Taliban – something the US president has so far refused to commit to. 

Nearly 6,000 Britons, Afghan staff and their families have now been airlifted out by the RAF – but there are plans to fly out a further 6,000 this week.

French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said he was ‘concerned’ about the deadline and ‘additional time is needed’. 

Germany estimated it has 5,000 people still waiting to be taken to safety, with a Foreign Ministry spokesman saying the airbridges should stay open ‘as long as the situation on the ground allows’.

However, the Taliban have said any extension would be a ‘red line’ and warned of ‘consequences’ – as ministers admit they have a ‘vote’ on the timetable. 

Despite the entreaties from fellow leaders, Mr Biden has been non-committal, saying yesterday he ‘hopes not to’ extend his current deadline. 

He made a pledge to US citizens that ‘any American who wants to get home will get home’ but pointedly failed to mention his allies. 

Mr Biden has set a deadline of August 31 for all Americans to have left the country, but UK military sources said another fortnight was needed. 

Asked what he would say if G7 leaders pushed him, Mr Biden said: ‘I will tell them we will see what we can do.’

British military commanders are understood to have pencilled in August 25 as the last day they can process refugees, including former British interpreters, under the current plans before the focus shifts to getting about 1,000 British troops and government officials home safely.

Taliban fighters in a vehicle patrol the streets of Kabul on August 23, 2021 as in the capital after their takeover of Afghanistan

Taliban fighters in a vehicle patrol the streets of Kabul on August 23, 2021 as in the capital after their takeover of Afghanistan

aliban check vehicles at a check point in Kandahar, Afghansitan, 22 August 2021. The Afghan interim council, formed to assist in the power transfer following President Ashraf Ghani's escape, has met several Taliban leaders to discuss issues related to control and security during the transition process

aliban check vehicles at a check point in Kandahar, Afghansitan, 22 August 2021. The Afghan interim council, formed to assist in the power transfer following President Ashraf Ghani’s escape, has met several Taliban leaders to discuss issues related to control and security during the transition process

It could mean the last British evacuation flight may have to leave as soon as tomorrow or Wednesday to allow soldiers enough time to withdraw.  

Meanwhile, The Taliban has said it will ‘provoke a reaction’ and has threatened ‘consequences’ if the US or UK do not leave Afghanistan by August 31 and extend the deadline for the withdrawal of troops. 

Taliban spokesman Dr Suhail Shaheen said the group will not accept an extension to the deadline and warned of retaliation if Western forces extend their ‘occupation’ since the group dramatically swept to power.

He told Sky News: ‘It’s a red line. President Biden announced that on 31 August they would withdraw all their military forces. So if they extend it that means they are extending occupation while there is no need for that.

‘If the US or UK were to seek additional time to continue evacuations – the answer is no. Or there would be consequences.

‘It will create mistrust between us. If they are intent on continuing the occupation it will provoke a reaction.’ 

‘We need more time’: Britain, France and Germany urge Biden to extend August 31 deadline for Kabul troop withdrawal as UK bids to airlift ANOTHER 6,000 Britons and Afghan allies to safety

Britain, France and Germany all joined pleas for Joe Biden to delay the US withdrawal from Afghanistan today.

As the desperate evacuation continues, the PM will use a virtual meeting of world leaders tomorrow to push for more time to save people from the clutches of the Taliban – something the US president has so far refused to commit to. 

Nearly 6,000 Britons, Afghan staff and their families have now been airlifted out by the RAF – but there are plans to fly out a further 6,000 this week.

French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said he was ‘concerned’ about the deadline and ‘additional time is needed’. Germany estimated it has 5,000 people still waiting to be taken to safety, with a Foreign Ministry spokesman saying the airbridges should stay open ‘as long as the situation on the ground allows’.

However, the Taliban have said any extension would be a ‘red line’ and warned of ‘consequences’ – as ministers admit they have a ‘vote’ on the timetable. 

Despite the entreaties from fellow leaders, Mr Biden has been non-committal, saying yesterday he ‘hopes not to’ extend his current deadline. He made a pledge to US citizens that ‘any American who wants to get home will get home’ but pointedly failed to mention his allies. 

It came as dramatic pictures emerged of Taliban fighters and British troops, once sworn enemies, working just yards apart at Kabul airport.

Downing Street insiders said Mr Johnson will ask the US President at the G7 meeting not to leave Western allies in the lurch. 

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace have also been in contact with their opposite numbers in Washington on the issue. 

Mr Biden has set a deadline of August 31 for all Americans to have left the country, but UK military sources said another fortnight was needed. 

Asked what he would say if G7 leaders pushed him, Mr Biden said: ‘I will tell them we will see what we can do.’

British military commanders are understood to have pencilled in August 25 as the last day they can process refugees, including former British interpreters, under the current plans before the focus shifts to getting about 1,000 British troops and government officials home safely.

It could mean the last British evacuation flight may have to leave as soon as tomorrow or Wednesday to allow soldiers enough time to withdraw.  

It came as:

  • The Ministry of Defence confirmed seven Afghan civilians died in the chaos outside Kabul airport over the weekend, with at least 20 killed in the past week;
  •  Britain pledged to work with Moscow and Beijing to exercise a ‘moderating influence’ over the Taliban, despite a deep mistrust of both regimes; 
  •  Vladimir Putin rejected the idea of airlifting people from Afghanistan to countries near Russia, saying he did not want ‘militants showing up here under cover of refugees’;
  • Tony Blair stressed that Britain’s involvement in Afghanistan has not been a ‘hopeless endeavour’, as he accused Mr Biden of following an ‘imbecilic policy’;
  •  Only a last-minute concession by the Taliban and a change of heart by Mr Biden can save the thousands of vulnerable Afghans who face being left behind. 
Boris Johnson (pictured left) will attempt to persuade US President Joe Biden to keep American troops in Afghanistan beyond his August 31 deadline when the two leaders take part in a G7 meeting this week

The Prime Minister reportedly wants the Democrat leader (pictured right) to push back the final withdrawal date in order to evacuate more Afghan citizens from Kabul.

Boris Johnson (pictured left) will attempt to persuade US President Joe Biden (pictured right) to keep American troops in Afghanistan beyond his August 31 deadline when the two leaders take part in a G7 meeting this week

The situation at the airport has become increasingly fraught as the clock ticks on the airlift

The situation at the airport has become increasingly fraught as the clock ticks on the airlift

Speaking to reporters in Fort George, near Inverness, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: ‘The Prime Minister is, obviously at the G7, going to try and raise the prospect of seeing if the United States will extend.

‘It’s really important for people to understand the United States have over 6,000 people in Kabul airport and when they withdraw that will take away the framework … and we will have to go as well.

‘I don’t think there is any likelihood of staying on after the United States. If their timetable extends even by a day or two, that will give us a day or two more to evacuate people.

‘Because we are really down to hours now, not weeks, and we have to make sure we exploit every minute to get people out.’

Furious former generals have urged the PM to continue the evacuation even if the US leaves, in the hopes of getting ‘every last Briton out’. 

‘We are concerned about the deadline set by the United States on August 31. Additional time is needed to complete ongoing operations,’ Mr Le Drian told reporters at the UAE’s Al-Dhafra air base, where France has set up an air bridge for people evacuated from Kabul. 

A Taliban spokesman told Sky News that the evacuation effort continuing in Afghanistan past the end of the month would be a ‘red line’ and would ‘provoke a reaction’.

Suhail Shaheen said: ‘This is something … you can say it’s a red line. President Biden announced this agreement that on August 31 they would withdraw all their military forces. So, if they extend it that means they are extending occupation while there is no need for that.

‘It will create mistrust between us. If they are intent on continuing the occupation, so it will provoke a reaction.’

In a round of interviews this morning, defence minister James Heappey said the RAF had extracted 1,821 people from Kabul on eight flights over the past 24 hours, and another nine flights are expected in the coming day.

He said: ‘It is certainly the case as the cases have been made for more people from Afghan civil society to be evacuated, those names have been added.

‘In reality, the focus is on the around 1,800 eligible persons or UK passport holders, British nationals and the remaining people under the Arap (Afghan relocations and assistance policy) scheme which is 2,275, but there are thousands more who we would like to get out if there is the time and the capacity.’

But Mr Heappey said the ‘hard reality’ is that the effort cannot continue without the US, admitting that not everyone will get out – stressing that people will be able to look for other escape avenues after that. 

‘The fact is we will get out as many as we possibly can but we have been clear throughout that there is a hard reality that we won’t be able to get out everybody that we want to, and that is very important that we start to reassure people in Kabul – because I know that people in Afghanistan are acutely aware of what is being said in our media in the UK – that the airlift is not the only route out of Afghanistan, not the only route to the UK.’

He added: ‘There is a second phase to this, where people will be able to settle in the UK having been processed either at a handling centre in a refugee camp or at one of our embassies or high commissions in the region.’

Over recent days, the President has remained stubbornly opposed to any plan to extend the rescue operation into September.

His stance means UK nationals and Afghans eligible to relocate to Britain would have to escape themselves to a third country, such as Pakistan, from where they could travel to the UK on commercial aircraft.

Such journeys would be fraught with danger. Scores of interpreters are hiding in Kabul following beatings and shootings by the Taliban; punishment for their service to a foreign power.

Former international development secretary Rory Stewart accused Mr Biden of ‘not caring’ about the consequences of troop withdrawal.

He told BBC Breakfast: ‘At some fundamental level he doesn’t really care what the consequences are in Afghanistan, what he cares about is being able to say to the American people that he’s got his boys home.’

Mr Stewart added: ‘The way that it’s been organised has been horrifying, but the fundamental problem was the fact that we chose to break 20 years of investment and betray our obligations to the Afghan people in the first place.’

Mr Biden appeared to push back on extending last night, saying: ‘Let me be clear – the evacuation of thousands of people from Kabul is going to be hard and painful.

‘No matter when it started, when we began. It would have been true if we had started a month ago, or a month from now. 

‘There is no way to evacuate this many people without pain and loss and heartbreaking images you see on television. It’s just a fact.’

He said about 11,000 people were lifted out of Kabul in less than 36 hours and said defence officials ‘hope’ they will not have to extend the evacuation operation.

However in a glimmer of hope that an extension was still possible, he added: ‘There are going to be discussions I suspect on how far along we are in the process.

‘Our first priority in Kabul is getting American citizens out of the situation as quickly and safely as possible. Any American that wants to get home will get home.’

He also said the US government is ‘looking to move our Afghan allies’ out of the country as well, noting that citizens of NATO allies and Afghan allies were amongst the 11,000 individuals evacuated this past weekend. 

Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the Commons Defence Select Committee, stressed the importance of Mr Johnson convincing Mr Biden that the rescue mission should be extended.

He said: ‘Time is unquestionably running out and unless there is movement politically on that cut-off point of August 31, we could see flights for former interpreters, other eligible Afghans and refugees ending in the coming days. 

‘After that, the main effort must switch to the safe withdrawal of our military personnel.

‘It simply isn’t possible to do both at the same time; the folding up of the military mission cannot be done amid the mayhem and chaos we are currently witnessing; in particular given genuine fears of a terrorist attack. 

‘Boris Johnson must get the support of other G7 leaders and present a united front to President Biden. More time must be made available.

‘I dread to think what the scenes will be at the airport this week as the deadline approaches. There could be carnage. We are perhaps fortunate that more lives haven’t been lost and no British troops have been wounded.’ 

The threat of a terrorist attack is being factored into all military plans as the chaos is thought to provide an ‘open goal’ opportunity for the Islamic State terror group to strike British and other international forces.

Military aircraft have been seen dropping anti-missile flares and carrying out nosedive combat landings amid fears that terrorists may try to shoot down an aircraft.

A former British Army general last night said the UK should go it alone if the US does not push back its leaving date.  

Retired Major General Tim Cross, who served in Iraq and Kosovo, told the Sun: ‘What’s the point of having armed forces if we cannot hold a single airfield? It makes the whole global Britain idea a joke.’

Former British Army generals last night said the UK should go it alone if the US does not push back its leaving date. Colonel Richard Kemp, a retired officer who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, told the Sun: 'We are one of the most powerful military nations in the world. We should stay until we have got every last Brit, and everyone we need, out.'

Speaking to reporters in Fort George, near Inverness, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the rescue bid was 'down to hours, not weeks'

Colonel Richard Kemp, left, a retired officer who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, said UK troops ‘should stay until we have got every last Brit, and everyone we need, out’. Speaking to reporters in Fort George, near Inverness, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace (right) said the rescue bid was ‘down to hours, not weeks’

A porter pushes a wheelbarrow carrying Afghan children as family members enters into Pakistan through a border crossing point in Chaman, Pakistan

A porter pushes a wheelbarrow carrying Afghan children as family members enters into Pakistan through a border crossing point in Chaman, Pakistan

Another, Colonel Richard Kemp, a retired officer who served in Afghanistan and Iraq, told the paper: ‘We are one of the most powerful military nations in the world. We should stay until we have got every last Brit, and everyone we need, out.’

The Ministry of Defence last night said it would be ‘impractical’ to secure Kabul Airport and to continue the evacuation mission ‘without the partnership (with the US)’.

Meanwhile, fears have been raised about UK and US troops being targeted by IS terrorists as the evacuation at Kabul airport continues. Fears of an Isis attack on the have prompted the US to warn its citizens not to travel to the site without instructions from its officials.

A government source told the Times last night: ‘We know they (IS) would love to get a suicide bomb into the crowd and take out some Brits or Americans. 

‘There is a serious threat of an Isis suicide bomber. The soldiers are having to keep their fingers on the trigger in one hand while holding a baby in the other. It’s very fragile.’

It comes as Sir Laurie Bristow, Britain’s ambassador to Afghanistan, last night said the UK had managed to evacuate more than 5,700 people, including 1,000 in the previous 14 hours.

And British troops could be given extra time to evacuate more people out of Afghanistan. The Times suggest that the military has now managed to push back the final evacuation date to Friday or Saturday, in order to help more people.

The evacuation missions has also been expanded, according to the paper. The expansion is reportedly due to a rise in the number of people who have come forward with eligibility claims to the UK. 

The figure is thought to have raised from 6,000 last week to around 12,000. Part of the rise is due to the inclusion of Afghan politicians, civic leaders and humanitarian workers, as well as their families, the Times reports. 

Lord Richards, the former chief of defence staff, meanwhile, said extending the evacuation window would ‘undoubtedly’ save lives if the Taliban agreed to it.

He added: ‘Western politicians [are] sleepwalking through this, coming out with all sorts of statements of regret and recrimination,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Broadcasting House. It’s so important that we now get a grip of it.

‘I think there could be an international consensus and the Taliban ironically might well welcome it, because the alternative is some very bad headlines come September 1 when we see starving Afghans, and worse potentially, simply because they don’t have the capacity to deal with it.’ 

Sir Nick Kay, the former British ambassador to Afghanistan, told LBC radio: ‘If you can extend that deadline you can release the Afghan people from the panic that they’re in that this is all going to end within a matter of days and hours.’

Former Tory party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said Mr Biden ‘needs to be told categorically, you can’t go off by this ridiculous artificial date’.

Taliban fighters stand guard at a checkpoint in the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood in the city of Kabul, Afghanistan

Taliban fighters stand guard at a checkpoint in the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood in the city of Kabul, Afghanistan

The fighters were all seen carrying weapons as they spoke to passing Afghans at the checkpoint in the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood in the city of Kabul

The fighters were all seen carrying weapons as they spoke to passing Afghans at the checkpoint in the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood in the city of Kabul

Taliban fighters were seen carrying automatic weapons and with ammo strap to their chest at the checkpoint in Wazir Akbar Khan neighbourhood of Kabul

Taliban fighters were seen carrying automatic weapons and with ammo strap to their chest at the checkpoint in Wazir Akbar Khan neighbourhood of Kabul 

He told LBC: ‘The idea that in the next couple of days there will be the last flights is abominable.’

During last night’s national address from the White House, Mr Biden said it did not matter when the Afghan evacuation began, it was always ‘going to be hard and painful’. 

The President added: ‘No way of evacuating this number of people would be without pain and loss. It is just a fact.

‘We are bringing out citizens, Nato allies, Afghani allies… but we have a long way to go and a lot can still go wrong.’ 

It comes as today Tony Blair blasted President Biden’s ‘imbecilic’ decision to withdraw US troops from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, calling the President’s scuttle ‘tragic, dangerous and unnecessary’ and claiming the move had ‘every Jihadist group round the world cheering’. 

Mr Blair, who was in Downing Street when London sent UK troops to the Middle Eastern country 20 years ago following the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington DC, said Britain has a ‘moral obligation’ to stay until ‘all those who need to be are evacuated’. 

In a 2,700 article on the threat of ‘radical Islam’, the former British prime minister said the exit was not in the West or Afghanistan’s interest as he lamented the likely reversal of gains made during the occupation, with the Taliban reasserting itself across most of the country in recent days.

Speaking to Sky News on Sunday, Mr Blair said he has ‘enormous respect’ for Mr Biden, but suggested the President – who campaigned on a slogan of ending ‘forever wars’ and is likely to be keeping an eye on next year’s midterms – had withdrawn US troops for domestic political reasons.

He repeated his assertion that the withdrawal was a ‘serious mistake’ and ‘not something we needed to do’ and said there had been ‘a lot of gains’ made in the past two decades, stressing that the deaths of British Armed Forces personnel were ‘not in vain’.

Mr Blair also issued a stark warning to Boris Johnson that the manner of the US’ handling of the exit indicated the UK could be relegated from the top division of international powers, with reports Britain was largely kept in the dark about when American armed forces would leave. 

He added that countries including China and Russia are likely to applaud the withdrawal and occupy the ‘vacuum’ in Afghanistan left by the NATO powers.

Both the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab have suggested Britain will now have to turn to Beijing and Moscow to assist with exercising a ‘moderating influence’ over the Taliban post-withdrawal. 

Cabinet insiders have suggested the President was ‘gaga’ and ‘doolally’ for withdrawing so quickly, while the Prime Minister has allegedly privately referred to Mr Biden as ‘Sleepy Joe’, the nickname coined by Donald Trump. Mr Johnson also allegedly remarked Britain ‘would be better off with Trump’ – allegations branded ‘categorically untrue’ by Downing Street. 

‘For Britain, out of Europe and suffering the end of the Afghanistan mission by our greatest ally with little or no consultation, we have serious reflection to do,’ said Mr Blair. ‘We don’t see it yet, but we are at risk of relegation to the second division of global powers.’ 

His comments come as the US President signalled he wanted evacuations from Kabul airport completed by the end of the month as he prepares to withdraw all American troops – a move that would likely force Britain to wrap up its operation at the same time. 

Mr Blair told Sky News on Sunday: ‘I’ve enormous respect for Joe Biden, I’ve known him for many years – he is a good man and he’s a decent man. But on the other hand … I think it is important to realise this was not something we needed to do.

‘I understand the political pressure but our footprint had really been reduced to a much smaller level, and by the end of 2019 we were in a situation whereby we could have held firm for some considerable time and helped the Afghan people through the next stages of their progress.’

Mr Blair said there had been ‘a lot of gains’ made in the past two decades and stressed that the deaths of UK armed forces personnel were ‘not in vain’.

He added: ‘Our troops were fantastic in Afghanistan, and a lot of them made the ultimate sacrifice, a lot of them were injured. And it’s really important that they know that this wasn’t a hopeless endeavour, and it wasn’t a bad cause.

‘What I’d say to them is the sacrifice was not in vain, that those 20 years matter. What we achieved in Afghanistan matters today. I think it’s really important that people realise this, the story of Afghanistan, the story of the Taliban takeover, it’s not over. It’s tragic what’s happened, I think it’s unnecessary, I think we’ve made a serious mistake in doing this in this way, but it isn’t over yet.’

In his article, Mr Blair urged for there to be ‘no repetition of arbitrary deadlines’ – a reference to Washington’s Doha agreement with the Taliban, committing to vacate Afghanistan in time for the 9/11 anniversary – in the rescue mission.

‘We must evacuate and give sanctuary to those to whom we have responsibility – those Afghans who helped us and stood by us and have a right to demand we stand by them,’ said the former Labour Party leader.

‘There must be no repetition of arbitrary deadlines. We have a moral obligation to keep at it until all those who need to be are evacuated. And we should do so not grudgingly but out of a deep sense of humanity and responsibility.’

Mr Blair defended his own decision making in 2001 when he worked with former US president George Bush and NATO allies to avenge the New York World Trade Centre attack. After the Taliban refused to evict al Qaeda, the terror group that masterminded the hijacking of the planes in 2001, Mr Blair said Western allies, who feared worse attacks were to come, felt there was ‘no safer alternative’ than to strike.

He continued: ‘There is no doubt that in the years that followed we made mistakes, some serious. But the reaction to our mistakes have been unfortunately further mistakes.

‘Today we are in a mood which seems to regard the bringing of democracy as a utopian delusion and intervention virtually of any sort as a fool’s errand. The world is now uncertain of where the West stands because it is so obvious that the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan in this way was driven not by grand strategy but by politics.

‘We didn’t need to do it. We chose to do it.

‘We did it in obedience to an imbecilic political slogan about ending ‘the forever wars’, as if our engagement in 2021 was remotely comparable to our commitment 20 or even 10 years ago, in circumstances in which troop numbers had declined to a minimum and no allied soldier had lost their life in combat for 18 months.’

The former Middle East envoy said that, although ‘imperfect’, the ‘real gains over the past 20 years’ were likely to be lost following the Taliban victory, including advances in living standards, education particularly of girls, and other freedoms.

He called for the UK, in its role as president of the G7 this year, to help coordinate an international response to ‘hold the new regime to account’.

The UK Government has been working diplomatically to ensure there is no unilateral recognition of a Taliban government in Afghanistan, with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab refusing to rule out applying sanctions if the militants renege on their promise to be more inclusive, especially in their attitudes towards women, than when last in control.

Mr Blair said: ‘We need to draw up a list of incentives, sanctions, actions we can take including to protect the civilian population so the Taliban understand their actions will have consequences. This is urgent. The disarray of the past weeks needs to be replaced by something resembling coherence and with a plan that is credible and realistic.’

The Prime Minister’s feelings about America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan have been variously described by sources as ‘furious’, ‘a betrayal’ and ‘let down’.

Downing Street dismisses the claims – it is in neither country’s interests to stoke tensions when the future of Afghanistan hangs in the balance – but there is little question that the UK has been left exposed by the speed of Washington’s pull-out.

No 10 also denies claims that the Prime Minister was disappointed by Mr Biden’s victory in the Presidential elections and had declared that it would have been ‘better’ if Mr Trump had won a second term, and say it is ‘categorically untrue’ that Mr Johnson employs the President’s derogatory nickname of Sleepy Joe during jocular conversations.

However, one minister denounced US isolationism and warned the Government would have to ‘revisit’ the recent review on defence and foreign policy because the US was no longer a reliable ally.

They told the Sunday Times: ‘America has just signalled to the world that they are not that keen on playing a global role. The implications of that are absolutely huge. We need to get the integrated review out and reread it. We are going to have to do a hard-nosed revisit on all our assumptions and policies. 

Pakistan's soldiers check the documents of Afghan and Pakistani nationals for crossing into Afghanistan at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border crossing point in Chaman

Pakistan’s soldiers check the documents of Afghan and Pakistani nationals for crossing into Afghanistan at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border crossing point in Chaman

People gather outside the Pakistani embassy, to obtain a visa. after Taliban took over in Kabul

People gather outside the Pakistani embassy, to obtain a visa. after Taliban took over in Kabul

‘The US had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the First World War. They turned up late for the Second World War and now they are cutting and running in Afghanistan.’

Speaking to Sky News today, Mr Blair said ‘the only people really cheering this decision are the people hostile to Western interests’ – listing among them the Chinese and Russian regimes.  

‘We’ve got to realise we were in a situation where… we could’ve managed the situation,’ he said. ‘The problem with what’s happened now is that it’s not just about the Afghan people and our obligation to them… it’s about us and our security. 

‘Because you’ve now got this group back in charge of Afghanistan. They will give protection and succour to al Qaeda, you’ve got ISIS (Islamic State) already in the country trying to operate at the same time. You look round the world and the only people really cheering this decision are the people hostile to Western interests.’

Mr Blair said the UK and its G7 allies will need to come up with a ‘strategy’ to deal with the Taliban regime to make sure ‘we don’t end up with a security threat’.

He added: ‘We should be putting together the leading countries who are part of this coalition in the first place and who have supported Afghanistan in the last 20 years and we need to work out what our strategy and tactics are going to be in respect of the Taliban government.

‘We need to be drawing up a list of incentives and sanctions and other things we can do in order to use the leverage we have, which is not insignificant. The Taliban will find that governing is a lot harder than they thought. The population of Afghanistan is different.

‘There’s going to be a lot that we can still do but it’s important that we mobilise now after the disarray frankly of the last few weeks, that we mobilise as the leading countries and make it clear that we still understand we have an obligation in our own interests to try and resolve this situation and to put as much pressure on the government in Afghanistan as possible to make sure that we don’t end up either with a security threat in play for us or with the Afghan people losing the gains they’ve made over the last 20 years.’

Across Whitehall and in British embassies around the world, officials and diplomats are adjusting to the fact that Mr Biden has adopted an America First policy every bit as isolationist as his predecessor’s.

There are also whispered concerns that the 78-year-old might be, in the words of one Government source, ‘a bit doolally’ – unable to exert full executive grip on the White House and with a world view forged decades ago and out of step with the demands of leadership in the 2020s. 

The Times claimed yesterday that Mr Johnson finds Mr Biden ‘lightweight and inward-looking’.

Observers of the two men’s relationship believe that there is a degree of wariness, with Mr Biden regarding Mr Johnson as a ‘mini-Trump’ because of his personality-driven style of politics and the pair talking far less frequently than Mr Johnson and Mr Trump did.

There are also policy differences, with Washington reluctant to accede to the UK’s demand to ramp up spending on ‘green’ policies ahead of the COP26 climate change summit being hosted by the UK in November. 

Of particular irritation in London during the Afghan endgame has been the fact that British military commanders have been cut out of discussions between the US and the Taliban.

But a No 10 source said yesterday that Mr Johnson had not expressed any anger over the US withdrawal, and said the two men had enjoyed a ‘warm and constructive’ phone conversation on Tuesday evening.

A Downing Street spokesman said: ‘These claims are categorically untrue. The Prime Minister has not criticised President Biden, and they have a very strong working relationship. 

The President’s first call to a leader outside of North America after his election win was to the Prime Minister. 

They have worked together on a range of issues, including at the recent G7, where they secured an additional one billion Covid vaccine doses for developing countries, and signed the Carbis Bay Declaration to improve global health co-operation and prevent future pandemics’.

President Biden cancelled plans to spend the weekend at his home in Delaware. Instead he is meeting his national security team ‘to hear intelligence, security and diplomatic updates on the evolving situation in Afghanistan,’ the White House said.

Lord Ricketts, who served as the Government’s first national security adviser from 2010 to 2012 under former prime minister David Cameron, said the UK will need to ‘rethink’ its foreign policy stance following the United States’ handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal.

Speaking to Times Radio, he said: ‘It has been a humiliating period for the UK. I’m afraid we’ve learnt that (US President) Joe Biden has put US politics ahead of NATO alliance solidarity and Britain hasn’t counted for much in that decision, if anything at all.

‘The hard fact is we are going to need to continue to work with the Americans in all sorts of areas and this has been a difficult experience, but we need to bring the Americans back to working with their allies, taking account of our views.

‘But we can’t somehow invent a foreign policy without the Americans so we’ve got to take a deep breath and do some frank talking to Joe Biden and then get back to work with him.’

The former chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee continued: ‘We need to rethink a lot of that rhetoric in the integrated review published by the Government a few months ago about Britain as an independent sovereign operator, turning the dial on international crises.

‘We have shown actually that we are pretty impotent in a situation where the Americans take a decision – we have little choice but to follow.’



Source link

RELATED ARTICLES

Most Popular

Recent Comments