Ex-Spymaster Claims Terror Threat to UK Greater Since Taliban Victory
12:54 GMT 01.09.2021 (Updated: 15:15 GMT 28.05.2023)
Afghanistan's new Taliban* government pledged in last year's peace treaty with the US not to allow terrorist groups to launch attacks on other nations from Afghan soil — which formed the pretext for the 2001 US-led invasion.
A former spy chief has claimed the terror threat to the UK has increased since the British Armed Forces pulled out of the country.
Sir John Sawers, a non-executive director of oil giant BP who was chief of the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) from 2009 to 2014, lamented the British withdrawal from Afghanistan after 20 years of foreign occupation.
"I do think the terrorist threat is a notch greater today than it was when we were able to operate in Afghanistan", he told Sky News.
"That's for two reasons; I think, first, because of the risk that we will not be able to monitor terrorist groups and take action against them in Afghanistan itself", Sawers said. "But I think perhaps the more immediate risk is that those extreme Islamists, violent people who take inspiration from the Taliban success in Afghanistan, might take it into their own hands to carry out attacks".
As part of the 2020 peace agreement with the US, the Taliban* pledged not to allow Afghanistan to be used as a base for terrorist attacks on other countries. The 2001 US-led invasion was justified by then-President George W. Bush as a hunt for al-Qaeda* leader Osama bin Laden following the terrorist group's attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. The US claimed to have killed bin Laden in neighbouring Pakistan 2011.
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Sawers conceded that most of the attacks in the UK over the past five or 10 years were perpetrated by "homegrown terrorists".
But he ventured: "I think the security services will be looking again at radical groups in this country to make sure they are not planning any further attacks to, if you like, mark the success of the Taliban in Afghanistan".
"There is no doubt that this Taliban takeover and presumed victory, as it were, over the Americans will have encouraged other extremist groups across the world — whether in the Sahel, Somalia, northern Nigeria etc. — all of them will get a boost", Grant said. "But I don't think it necessarily increases the risk to us here in the UK, certainly not directly".
Grant insisted: "The Taliban themselves do not pose a risk, they're not an international terrorist group. And I think there is some prospect they will have learned the lessons of the last 20 years and not allow more extreme groups like al-Qaeda and ISIS to operate out of Afghanistan".
The Taliban said 28 of its men who were providing security at Kabul Airport were killed in last Thursday's suicide bomb attack by Daesh-Khorasan*, which also left 13 US servicepeople and some 160 civilians dead.
*The Taliban, al-Qaeda, and Daesh-K are banned as terrorist organisations in a number of countries, including Russia