'Capable of Acting Without Americans': Tory MPs Call for British Troops to Go Back to Afghanistan
12:08 GMT 05.08.2021 (Updated: 13:21 GMT 06.08.2022)
Until last month, most of the Taliban*-occupied territories were located in rural parts of Afghanistan. However, with the foreign troop withdrawal deadline nearing, the Islamist insurgent group is now threatening major provincial cities. Clashes between the Taliban and the Afghan forces have been reported from three major towns this week.
Two of the United Kingdom's (UK) former defence ministers, chairman of the House of Commons’ Defence Committee, Tobias Ellwood, and Johnny Mercer, have called on Boris Johnson's government to “show international leadership” and return British troops to Afghanistan. The demand came as the Taliban
set its sights on the country’s urban centres ahead of the troop withdrawal deadline.
“We are capable of acting without the Americans and it’s time to prove it,” Ellwood, a Tory politician and a former commando was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail.
He has also expressed fears that the “horrific local, regional and international consequence” of US troop withdrawal are just starting to unfold, in a reference to escalating violence by the Taliban.
“History will show that our failure in Afghanistan, culminating in our abrupt retreat, will be the biggest own goal made by the West so far this century,” Ellwood tweeted.
The conservative MP called for the 31 August troop withdrawal order by the Joe Biden administration to be revoked, warning that if the UK didn’t “step up” and convene a conference of “like-minded partners”, the sacrifice of British troops over the past 20 years would be in vain.
US President Joe Biden announced the 31 August troop withdrawal deadline during a policy address on 8 July. In April, Biden made a commitment to conclude the troop withdrawal process by 11 September, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, the 2001 tragedy which led to US forces invading Afghanistan two decades ago.
The call by the UK MP comes as the Taliban militants threaten to overtake three provincial capitals — Herat (Herat Province), Lashkar Gah (Helmand) and Kandahar (Kandahar Province).
During their offensive in these Afghan cities, the Taliban are reportedly singling out Afghan interpreters who have helped the US-led foreign coalition forces since 2001.
Nearly 450 British troops have been killed in combat across the insurgency-ravaged nation since 2001, most of the casualties having taken place in Helmand
Fellow conservative MP Johnny Mercer backed Ellwood’s calls, accusing the US of “losing its moral compass” and “leaving Afghanistan to its fate”.
“We have aircraft all over the Middle East. We should be dropping bombs and killing Taliban... No call for air support from Afghan troops on the ground should go unanswered,” the Daily Mail quoted him as saying.
Mercer said that unless the British government did something to support the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), the sacrifice of the British troops over the past 20 years would be “squandered”.
The calls by the Tory MPs come amid a popular campaign in the United Kingdom to do more to absorb Afghan interpreters who worked for the British forces during their combat role in Afghanistan.
Taking to Twitter, Mercer slammed UK Home Secretary Priti Patel and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace for downplaying the threat to former Afghan interpreters
from the Taliban.
“Recent and regular intelligence assessments on this subject do not indicate intent on the part of the Taliban to conduct reprisals against Afghans who conducted low-level support roles for international forces. We do not therefore support the view that all Afghans who performed roles in support of international forces in Afghanistan are at risk of reprisals from the Taliban,” the UK government said in a letter.
*The Taliban is a terrorist group banned in Russia and many other countries.