Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, who in 2001 took Britain into war in Afghanistan alongside the United States, condemned the “abandonment” of the country as “dangerous” and “unnecessary”.
In his first public comments on the crisis since the Afghan government collapsed last weekend, Blair criticised the US motives for the withdrawal as “imbecilic” and “driven not by grand strategy but by politics”.
“The abandonment of Afghanistan and its people is tragic, dangerous, unnecessary, not in their interests and not in ours,” Blair said in a statement.
“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.” He continued.
Blair insisted the West must “give tangible demonstration” that it is not “in epoch-changing retreat” while decrying waning US global leadership.
“The absence of across-the-aisle consensus and collaboration and the deep politicisation of foreign policy and security issues is visibly atrophying American power,” he stressed.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who has faced sustained criticism for being on holiday when Kabul fell, conceded that Moscow and Beijing would now play a bigger role in Afghanistan.
“We’re going to have to bring in countries with a potentially moderating influence like Russia and China, however uncomfortable that is,” he told a news channel.
“It will give us a group to exercise greater influence and better convey our messages to the Taliban.”
Blair, a controversial figure both in the UK and abroad over his strong support for US-led military action in both Afghanistan and then Iraq, argued the withdrawal left “every jihadist group round the world cheering”.