Abandonment of Afghanistan is ‘tragic, dangerous, unnecessary, not in their interests and not in ours,’ says Tony Blair.
LONDON (AA) – Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair criticized the “imbecilic” US decision to withdraw from Afghanistan as “tragic, dangerous, unnecessary.”
He made the comments in an article published on the website of his Institute for Global Change think tank on Saturday.
Blair, who was prime minister during the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, said the UK risks being relegated to “the second division of global powers.”
“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’,” he wrote.
“The abandonment of Afghanistan and its people is tragic, dangerous, unnecessary, not in their interests and not in ours.”
In a not-so-subtle swipe at US President Joe Biden, Blair said: “Russia, China and Iran will see and take advantage. Anyone given commitments by Western Leaders will understandably regard them as unstable currency.
“We did it because our politics seemed to demand it. And that’s the worry of our allies and the source of rejoicing in those who wish us ill. They think Western politics is broken.”
He added that “the deep politicization of foreign policy and security issues” was weakening American power.
Blair then turned his attention to Britain, Brexit, and its alliances – or lack thereof.
“And 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,” he wrote.
“We don’t see it yet. But we are at risk of relegation to the second division of global powers. Maybe we don’t mind. But we should at least take the decision deliberatively.”
He added: “If the West wants to shape the 21st Century it will take commitment. Through thick and thin. When it’s rough as well as easy. Making sure allies have confidence and opponents caution.
“It will require parts of the right in politics to understand that isolation in an interconnected world is self-defeating; and parts of the left to accept that intervention can sometimes be necessary to uphold our values.”
As for the future, Blair said the West must evacuate and give sanctuary to Afghans who helped Western forces.
He said there must be “no repetition of arbitrary deadlines” and that it was a “moral obligation to keep at it” until everyone who needs evacuating is evacuated, adding: “And we should do so not grudgingly but out of a deep sense of humanity and responsibility.”
He then called on the West to find a way to exert “maximum pressure” on the Taliban, saying that while the West had given up much of its leverage, it still retained some.
“The Taliban will face very difficult decisions and likely divide deeply over them. The country, its finances and its public sector workforce are significantly dependent on aid notably from the USA, Japan, the UK and others,” Blair said.
“The average age of the population is 18. A majority of Afghans have known freedom and not known the Taliban regime. They will not all conform quietly.”
He said Prime Minister Boris Johnson must use the UK’s position as the current chair of the G7 to coordinate its members’ response to Afghanistan.
“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,” Blair wrote.
“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.”