‘We have moral obligation to stay in Afghanistan until all are evacuated’ - Tony Blair

Tony Blair, the Prime Minister who sent troops into Afghanistan in 2001 has described the US withdrawal from the country as ‘tragic, dangerous, and unnecessary’

Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has said Britain has a “moral obligation” to stay in Afghanistan until “all those who need to be are evacuated”.

In a 2,700 word article on the threat of “radical Islam”, Mr Blair called the decision to withdraw troops “tragic, dangerous, unnecessary” and that the move had “every Jihadist group round the world cheering”.

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At a glance: 5 key points

  • Tony Blair, the Prime Minister who sent troops into Afghanistan in 2001 has described the US withdrawal from the country as “tragic, dangerous, and unnecessary”.
  • In his first statement since the fall of Kabul to the Taliban, Mr Blair said the UK has a “moral obligation” to stay in Afghanistan until “all those who need to be evacuated”. 
  • The former Labour leader issued a stark warning to Boris Johnson that the manner of the US’s handling of the exit indicated that the UK could be relegated from the top division of international powers, with reports that Britain was largely kept in the dark about when American armed forces would leave.
  • Mr Blair’s comments arrive as US President Joe Biden signalled he wanted evacuations from Kabul airport completed by the end of the month as he prepared to withdraw all American troops.
  • But 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.

What did Tony Blair say?

In a 2,700 word article posted to his website, the former Prime Minister said: “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 Qaida, 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.”

Additional reporting from PA