UK Defence Secretary Reveals When Britain May Use Its New Battle Drones in Afghanistan
14:24 GMT 10.09.2021 (Updated: 15:15 GMT 28.05.2023)
On 28 August, Britain’s last evacuation flight left Kabul, ending almost 20 years of UK military presence in the Central Asian nation.
UK Defence Secretary has told The Guardian that a new fleet of military unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) could be used against targets in Afghanistan if the Taliban* fails to deliver on their promise to keep the country from again becoming a haven for terrorist groups, such as al-Qaeda* and Daesh*.
Taliban militants came to power in Afghanistan on 15 August, when they entered the capital Kabul without a fight and called for a peaceful transition of power.
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Earlier this month, the Taliban announced an all-male interim Afghan government, with the post of interior minister going to Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is at the helm of a terror group known as the Haqqani Network. The group is notoriously known as the hardline branch of the Taliban and has been accused of carrying out attacks against coalition forces in Afghanistan.
When asked if he was ready to consider conducting drone strikes in Afghanistan, Wallace said, “I’ll do whatever I have to do to protect citizens’ lives and our interests and our allies, when we’re called upon to do so, wherever that may be”.
The statement came after the defence secretary earlier this week visited RAF Waddington base in Lincolnshire, where a fleet of next-generation “Protector” drones will be stationed as of 2023.
He told reporters that the UK government doesn’t see the possibility of terrorists staging 9/11-style attacks “on the horizon”.
"But we certainly see a whole group of people who have the knowledge of doing terrorist attacks and we see people trying to communicate with each other to do that. I don't think it [the threat] is greater in one sense, but I think the reservoir of people who might cross that line into violence is probably greater than it was”, Wallace argued.
The remarks came after US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin suggested that al-Qaeda terrorists may seek a comeback in Afghanistan now that the Central Asian nation is under the Taliban’s rule.
“The whole community is kind of watching to see what happens and whether or not al-Qaeda has the ability to regenerate in Afghanistan. The nature of al-Qaeda […] is that they will always attempt to find space to grow and regenerate, whether it’s there, whether it’s in Somalia, or whether it’s in any other ungoverned space. I think that’s the nature of the organisation”, Austin asserted.
The UK's 20-year military deployment in Afghanistan wrapped up in late August after the final RAF evacuation flight left the capital Kabul.
*The Taliban, al-Qaeda, Daesh (ISIL/ISIS/Islamic State), terrorist groups banned in Russia and many other countries