The Taliban advance in Afghanistan is “our fault”, former development secretary Rory Stewart has said.
Britain and the US are sending more troops in as the Taliban’s lightning advance through the country continues – gains that come only weeks before allied forces are due to withdraw.
In an interview with Sky News, Stewart said “we are going to end up with terrorists” as a result of the Taliban regaining its grip.
“This is a horrifying group associated with terrorists, they have been backing suicide bombing in the areas they control, women are not going to school and it is a total betrayal by the United States and the United Kingdom,” he said.
Stewart, who also stood in the 2019 Tory leadership contest against Boris Johnson, said Britain and the US would have to “expect to take a lot of refugees” following major population displacement in Afghanistan, because “this is our fault”.
It came as Ben Wallace, the defence secretary voiced fears that al Qaida could return to Afghanistan.
Taliban insurgents are now estimated to hold more than two-thirds of Afghanistan and continue to press their offensive, having taken the country’s second and third largest cities, Kandahar and Herat, as part of a week-long blitz.
Afghan officials announced on Friday that the Taliban had captured Lashkar Gah, the capital of the southern Helmand province.
Wallace denied the plan to send 600 troops in to Afghanistan, announced on Thursday, was a last-minute decision, arguing that it was put in place “some months ago” in preparation for withdrawal alongside the US by September 11.
The short-term deployment, which comes as the US vowed to send 3,000 of its troops to Afghanistan, will be used to support diplomacy, help citizens leave the country and support the relocation of former Afghan staff as the Taliban continues to make in-roads.
Wallace – who refused to rule out further ground attacks or air strikes if the situation worsens – admitted he is concerned that multi-national terror network al Qaida, the group behind atrocities such as the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre in New York, could “come back” as Afghanistan de-stabilises once again.
He told Sky News: “Of course I am worried, it is why I said I felt this was not the right time or decision to make because, of course, al Qaida will probably come back, certainly would like that type of breeding ground.
“That is what we see – failed states around the world lead to instability, lead to a security threat to us and our interests.”
The defence secretary said he thinks the deal signed between then-White House incumbent Mr Trump and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, in February 2020 to withdraw from Afghanistan was a “mistake” – but argued the UK had no choice but to follow.
Since the deal was signed, Trump’s successor, Joe Biden, has continued with the withdrawal timetable.
Wallace said: “I was public about it that at the time of the Trump deal – with obviously the Taliban – I felt that that was a mistake to have done it that way, that we will all, as an international community, pay the consequences of that.
“But when the United States, as the framework nation ,took that decision, the way we were all configured, the way we had gone in meant that we had to leave as well.”