'Wrong Morally, Practically': Ex-PM John Major Blasts UK's 'Very Stupid' Withdrawal From Afghanistan
11:15 GMT 05.09.2021 (Updated: 15:15 GMT 28.05.2023)
Amid an avalanche of criticism over the botched Western pullout from Afghanistan, PM Boris Johnson nevertheless lauded UK airlift efforts to meet a “remorseless deadline in harrowing conditions”, while President Joe Biden hailed the "extraordinary success” of the massive evacuation of over 120,000 people per day.
John Major levelled excoriating criticism at the “strategically very stupid” UK and US withdrawal from Afghanistan and deplored the “shameful” failure of the evacuation effort
from the country.
The British politician, who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Conservative Party from 1990 to 1997, said
the Western allies were “wrong to leave Afghanistan”.
“I think we were wrong morally but we were also wrong practically… It's also I think strategically very stupid,” he said at the FT Weekend Festival on Saturday.
Major was weighing in on the lessons learnt from the Afghanistan crisis, as he spoke at the London event.
Over 15,000 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan’s, capital, Kabul, by the UK since 14 August, with more than 8,000 of them former Afghan staff and their family members.
However, it is feared thousands of vulnerable Afghans who aided British forces in the south-central Asian nation have been left stranded in a country now controlled by the Taliban*. The Islamist group
is known to have previously showered “retribution” on those who, in their opinion, were “traitors”.
John Major told those gathered that it was “shameful we weren’t able to take out those who had worked for us in one capacity or another, or who had worked carrying out the changes to Afghanistan that the Taliban won’t approve of”.
Turning his barrage of criticism towards the US president, Major chided Joe Biden for the hasty troop pullout
ahead of an August 31 deadline.
“The fact that it was left in that fashion will leave a stain on the reputation of the West that will last for a very long time and certainly through the whole of the lifetime of those people in Afghanistan whom we have returned to Taliban rule,” said the former Tory PM.
This comes as Tobias Ellwood, the Tory chairman of the Defence Select Committee, weighed in on the public row that erupted last week between UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace over the UK's exit. He slammed the spat as “unseemly, unprofessional squabbling”, saying it was time for the blame game to stop.
As the government has been taking the heat for the abrupt pullout from Afghanistan and growing fears for the safety of vulnerable Afghans left behind, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace had claimed in The Spectator that he warned cabinet colleagues in July that “the game is up” in the South Asian nation.
He had been responding to a suggestion from Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab that there had been an intelligence failure regarding the likelihood of a Taliban takeover.
Raab, who has been criticised for holidaying
in Crete as the Taliban swept to power, is also under pressure over a Foreign Office document reported to have been issued weeks before his holiday which suggested that the militants could carry out a lightning-fast offensive.
Raab has returned from a diplomatic tour to the region. In Pakistan he discusses how British nationals and Afghan citizens might cross the land border to safety, while in Qatar he focused on talks about reopening Kabul airport to resume evacuations.
In a tweet on Friday Raab wrote that he was working to support the people of Afghanistan and prevent the country from becoming “a safe haven for terrorists”.
*The Taliban is a terrorist organisation banned by Russia and many other states.