Boris Johnson faces wrath of MPs as he claims Afghan mission ‘succeeded’


MPs hammered Boris Johnson over the ‘catastrophic failure’ in Afghanistan today – as the PM swiped at Joe Biden saying the ‘successful’ Afghan mission could not continue without ‘American might’.

As the desperate evacuation effort continues in Kabul, the premier defended his handling of the chaos insisting there was a ‘hard reality’ as a result of the US stance.

Mr Johnson told the recalled chamber – packed out for the first time since last year after Covid restrictions were dropped – that the ‘sacrifice’ of British troops was ‘seared into our national consciousness’. He said the ‘core mission’ had been achieved as Afghanistan had not been a hotbed for terrorism. 

However, he was immediately assailed by Tories, with defence committee chair Tobias Ellwood saying the West had ‘ceded the country to the very insurgents we went to defeat’. Theresa May said Afghanistan would now be a breeding ground for extremism, accusing the PM of operating ‘on a wing and a prayer’ and hoping it would be ‘alright on the night’. Former chief whip Mark Harper said there had been a ‘catastrophic failure’.

Labour leader Keir Starmer said the premier had displayed ‘staggering complacency’, pointing out that his last visit to Afghanistan as Foreign Secretary in 2018 had been a ploy to avoid a vote on Heathrow Airport expansion. 

There were also calls for the government to go further and faster in providing safe haven for Afghans who face the threat of persecution under the new Taliban regime. Labour’s Chris Bryant said only 5,000 of 20,000 refugees were set to be accepted this year, raging that the rest were being asked to ‘hang around and wait until they have been executed’. 

On the current airlift, Mr Johnson revealed that just 306 UK nationals and 2,052 Afghan nationals had been extracted so far – with thousands more still waiting.

Meanwhile, other Tory MPs branded Mr Biden ‘shameful’, with former soldier Tom Tugendhat condemning the criticism of Afghans’ courage when the president has not seen service himself. 

In an emotional speech which drew rare applause from some MPs, Mr Tugendhat also said the UK and its Western allies had received a ‘very harsh lesson’.

Opening a bruising emergency debate, Mr Johnson said: ‘The sacrifice in Afghanistan is seared into our national consciousness, with 150,000 people serving there from across the length and breadth of the United Kingdom – including a number of members on all sides of the House whose voices will be particularly important today.’ 

He added: ‘As for our Nato allies and allies around the world, when it came for us to look at the options that this country might have in view of the American decision to withdraw we came up against this hard reality.

‘That since 2009, America has deployed 98 per cent of all weapons released from Nato aircraft in Afghanistan and at the peak of the operation – where there were 132,000 troops on the ground – 90,000 of them were American.

‘The West could not continue this US-led mission, a mission conceived and executed in support of America… without US logistics, without US airpower, and without American might.’ 

As the desperate evacuation effort continues in Kabul, the PM addressed the House of Commons to defend the handling of the crisis

As the desperate evacuation effort continues in Kabul, the PM addressed the House of Commons to defend the handling of the crisis

Johnson insisted the UK's 'core mission' in Afghanistan 'succeeded' as he faced the wrath of the House of Commons over the military meltdown

Johnson insisted the UK’s ‘core mission’ in Afghanistan ‘succeeded’ as he faced the wrath of the House of Commons over the military meltdown

Labour leader Keir Starmer said the premier had displayed 'staggering complacency'

Theresa May said Afghanistan would now be a breeding ground for terror, accusing the PM of operating 'on a wing and a prayer'

Labour leader Keir Starmer (left) said the premier had displayed ‘staggering complacency’. Theresa May (right) said Afghanistan would now be a breeding ground for terror, accusing the PM of operating ‘on a wing and a prayer’

Up to 25,000 Afghans in danger from the Taliban will be allowed to come to Britain in one of the most generous resettlement schemes in the country's history

Up to 25,000 Afghans in danger from the Taliban will be allowed to come to Britain in one of the most generous resettlement schemes in the country’s history

The President blamed the Afghans for not being prepared for the Taliban attack in his speech

The President blamed the Afghans for not being prepared for the Taliban attack in his speech

UK forces chief says US withdrawal ‘shattered’ Afghan morale 

General Sir Nick Carter dismissed the president's claim that the Afghan army had lacked the stomach for battle

General Sir Nick Carter dismissed the president’s claim that the Afghan army had lacked the stomach for battle

The head of UK forces today swiped at Joe Biden over the headlong US withdrawal from Afghanistan saying it ‘shattered’ the morale of local forces.

General Sir Nick Carter dismissed the president’s claim that the Afghan army had lacked the stomach for battle, insisting they ‘fought very bravely’ until the West effectively walked out.

Sir Nick said as the government teetered on the verge of collapse he had been focused on ‘giving confidence’ to the country’s military, which had been trained and equipped by the UK and US for two decades.  

Pointing to the impact of the July 4 drawdown of US troops,  the Chief of the Defence Staff said: ‘They lost their air power. That was a very shattering moment in terms of their morale…

‘What happened from 4th of July onwards, their morale was shattered.’ 

The comments came after Boris Johnson last night urged Mr Biden not to throw away the gains of the last 20 years following the chaotic US withdrawal

Mr Johnson said the immediate focus was to get Britons and vulnerable Afghan allies out of Kabul. 

‘The situation has stabilised since the weekend but it remains precarious, and the UK officials on the ground are doing everything that they can to expedite the movement of people, those that need to come out, whether from the ARAP scheme or the eligible persons, to get from Kabul to the airport, and at the moment it would be fair to say that the Taliban are allowing that evacuation to go ahead,’ he said.

He said ‘the most important thing is that we get this done in as expeditious a fashion as we can and that is what we are doing’.

Intervening in Mr Johnson’s speech, former PM Theresa May demanded details of his discussions on the ‘possibility of putting together an alliance of other forces in order to replace the American support in Afghanistan’.

Mr Johnson replied: ‘I really think that it is an illusion to believe that there is appetite amongst any of our partners for a continued military presence or for a military solution imposed by Nato in Afghanistan.

‘That idea ended with the combat mission in 2014.

‘And I do not believe that today deploying tens of thousands of British troops to fight the Taliban is an option that no matter how sincerely people may advocate it – and I appreciate their sincerity – but I do not believe that that is an option that would commend itself either to the British people or to this House.

‘We must deal with the position as it is now is, accepting what we have achieved and what we have not achieved.’

In her own speech afterwards, Mrs May said: ‘Was our intelligence really so poor? Was our understanding of the Afghan government so weak? 

‘Was our knowledge of our position on the ground so inadequate?

‘Or did we just follow the United States, and hope that on a wing and a prayer it would be alright on the night.’

She added: ‘It hasn’t been alright on the night.’

When ex-Cabinet minister John Redwood interjected that the blame lay with Mr Biden, Mrs May said the US president had only ‘upheld’ a decision made by Donald Trump, noting: ‘It was a unilateral decision of President Trump to do a deal with the Taliban that has led to this withdrawal.’ 

She added: ‘I think it is absolutely essential for us to recognise the probability that Afghanistan will once again become a breeding ground for the terrorists who seek to destroy our way of life.’ 

The former prime minister also said it was ‘a major setback for British foreign policy’ nearly 20 years after UK forces first entered the country in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks on the US. 

And Mr Tugendhat – who served in Afghanistan – said: ‘This doesn’t need to be defeat but at the moment it damn well feels like it.’

Meanwhile, Mr Ellwood  said the collapse of Afghanistan was the result of ‘an operational and strategic blunder’..

‘What we require is the backbone, the courage, the leadership to step forward, yet when our moment comes such as this we are found wanting,” he said.

‘We are complicit in allowing another dictatorship to form as we become more isolationist.’

Mr Johnson acknowledged the sacrifice of the British forces who had served in the country since 2001, and said he was committed to working with allies to ensure it did not again become a centre of international terrorism.

He said: ‘Even amid the heart-wrenching scenes we see today, I believe they should be proud of their achievements and we should be deeply proud of them.

‘They gave their all for our safety and we owe it to them to give our all to prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a breeding ground for terrorism.’

Sir Keir accused the PM of ‘staggering complacency’, pointing out that both he and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab were on holiday as the crisis unfolded.

Addressing veterans and their families he said: ‘Your sacrifice was not in vain, you brought stability, reduced the terrorist threat and enabled progress. We are all proud of what you did.

‘Your sacrifice deserves better than this and so do the Afghan people. There’s been a major miscalculation of the resilience of the Afghan forces and a staggering complacency from our Government about the Taliban threat. The result is that the Taliban are now back in control of Afghanistan.

Top Tory lashes Biden for questioning Afghan courage when he has never served 

A senior Tory today lashed out at Joe Biden for questioning the courage of Afghan troops when he has not seen service.

In an emotional speech, Foreign Affairs committee chair Tom Tugendhat – a former soldier – said he was ‘sad’ at having to criticise the US.

But he added: ‘To see their commander in chief call into the question the courage of men I fought with, to claim that they ran is shameful.

‘Those who have not fought for the colours they fly should be careful about criticising those who have.’

Mr Tugendhat suggested the West and the UK had not shown patience, adding: ‘This is a harsh lesson for all of us and if we’re not careful it could be a very, very difficult lesson for our allies.

‘It doesn’t need to be. We can set out a vision, clearly articulate it, for reinvigorating our European Nato partners, to make sure that we are not dependent on a single ally, on the decision of a single leader, that that we can work together with Japan and Australia, France and Germany, with partners large and small and make sure we hold the line together.’ 

‘The gains through 20 years of sacrifice hang precariously. Women and girls fear for their liberty, Afghan civilians are holding on to the undercarriage of Nato aircraft literally clinging to departing hope and we face new threats to our security and an appalling humanitarian crisis.’

Sir Keir praised the British ambassador in Kabul for processing the paperwork of those who needed to flee as the Taliban approached, adding: ‘The Prime Minister’s response to the Taliban arriving at the gates of Kabul was to go on holiday.

‘No sense of the gravity of the situation, not leadership to drive international efforts on the evacuation.’

When asked by the Tory benches what he would do differently, Sir Keir said: ‘I wouldn’t stay on holiday whilst Kabul was falling.’

Addressing Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, Sir Keir said: ‘He shouts now but he stayed on holiday while our mission in Afghanistan was disintegrating. He didn’t even speak to ambassadors in the region as Kabul fell to the Taliban. Let that sink in.

‘You cannot co-ordinate an international response from the beach. A dereliction of duty by the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, a Government totally unprepared for the scenario that it had 18 months to prepare for.’

Sir Keir said: ‘He failed to visit Afghanistan as Prime Minister, meaning that his last trip as foreign secretary in 2018 was not to learn or to push British interests but to avoid a vote on Heathrow.’ 

In an emotional speech, Mr Tugendhat lashed out at Mr Biden. ‘To see their commander in chief call into the question the courage of men I fought with, to claim that they ran is shameful,’ he said.

‘Those who have not fought for the colours they fly should be careful about criticising those who have.’

Mr Tugendhat suggested the West and the UK had not shown patience, adding: ‘This is a harsh lesson for all of us and if we’re not careful it could be a very, very difficult lesson for our allies.

‘It doesn’t need to be. We can set out a vision, clearly articulate it, for reinvigorating our European Nato partners, to make sure that we are not dependent on a single ally, on the decision of a single leader, that that we can work together with Japan and Australia, France and Germany, with partners large and small and make sure we hold the line together.’

In a round of interviews earlier, Home Secretary Priti Patel dismissed criticism of the new resettlement scheme, saying it represents an ‘enormous effort’. 

Women, girls and those facing persecution will get priority as some 20,000 are granted the right to live in the UK – with 5,000 expected in the first year.

Meanwhile, Ms Patel said an existing programme designed to protect Afghan translators and other workers who were employed by British forces will be expanded from 5,000 people to around 10,000.

However, senior Conservatives have suggested that the UK should be accepting ‘north of 50,000’ refugees, and there has also been criticism of the pace. 

Ms Patel said the circumstances were ‘very difficult’. 

‘We have to ensure we have the support structures throughout the United Kingdom. We will be working with local councils throughout the country, the devolved governments as well,’ she told Sky News.

‘We are working quickly on this. We cannot accommodate 20,000 people all in one go. Currently we are bringing back almost 1,000 people a day.

‘This is an enormous effort. We can’t do this on our own. We have to work together.’

She insisted that it was right to set an initial figure of 20,000 for the coming years, although it could rise in the future. 

‘We have got to come up with the actual infrastructure, the support, the resettlement,’ Ms Patel told BBC News.

How will the new resettlement scheme work and who will get priority? 

The new Afghan resettlement programme is separate from the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP), which grants haven to former interpreters and others who helped Western forces over the past 20 years.

It will be modelled on the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme which launched in 2014 in conjunction with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

The UNHCR identifies potential cases for the UK to consider and applicants are then vetted by British officials.

Priority will be given to women and girls, and religious and other minorities.

There will be a particular focus on whether people are at risk of human rights abuses and dehumanising treatment by the Taliban. 

The UK can reject cases on ‘security, war crimes or other grounds’. 

‘We are going to be working with all partners. We could end up bringing many more but first of all we have to have the underpinning and the infrastructure and the support to do that.’

Ms Patel said that double the 5,000 originally announced could be admitted under the existing Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP).

‘There could be up to 10,000. We are expanding categories of people,’ she said.

‘We are working with the MoD on the ground. We are working with partners on the ground to identify these individuals.

‘We are working night and day. I am sending in Home Office officials, Border Force officials, to the region to help support this scheme as well.’

The new Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme will focus on women and girls who fear their rights will be trampled under the ‘Islamic Emirate’ declared by the Taliban.

It will also offer help to those forced to flee their homes and to religious minorities in the country. They will be given the right to stay in the UK permanently.

A previous scheme for Syrian refugees cost about £8,000 per person – so the new commitments are likely to come with a huge price tag of up to £200million.

Earlier, the Chief of the Defence Staff gave his own damning verdict on the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, saying it ‘shattered’ the morale of local forces.

General Sir Nick Carter dismissed the president’s claim that the Afghan army had lacked the stomach for battle, insisting they ‘fought very bravely’ until the West effectively walked out.

Sir Nick said as the government teetered on the verge of collapse he had been focused on ‘giving confidence’ to the country’s military, which had been trained and equipped by the UK and US for two decades.  

Pointing to the impact of the July 4 drawdown of US troops,  the Chief of the Defence Staff said: ‘They lost their air power. That was a very shattering moment in terms of their morale…

‘What happened from 4th of July onwards, their morale was shattered.’ 

The comments came after Mr Johnson last night urged Mr Biden in a telephone call not to throw away the gains of the last 20 years following the chaotic US withdrawal.

In a thinly veiled warning over the consequences of the US military retreat from Kabul, the Prime Minister reminded the President of the need to protect the West against terrorism.

It follows a wave of criticism from US media and British and European politicians following the Taliban‘s dramatic takeover.  

It comes as the American media turned on Mr Biden yesterday over the botched withdrawal of troops.

The President had blamed the Afghans for not being prepared for the Taliban insurgents’ rapid attack. 

But his address to the American people on Monday night was slammed by media outlets and political commentators.

The Wall Street Journal described the speech as ‘one of the most shameful in history by a commander in chief’.

In an editorial, the newspaper said the President had ‘refused to accept responsibility for the botched withdrawal while blaming others’, adding that the ‘one group he conspicuously did not blame was the Taliban’.

In Monday’s speech, Mr Biden said: ‘I stand squarely behind my decision’, and claimed that Afghanistan’s political leaders and military were ‘not willing to fight for themselves’.

‘We gave them every chance to determine their own future. We could not provide them with the will to fight for that future.’

A Washington Post editorial said Mr Biden could have listened to the ‘many seasoned hands’ giving him alternatives to withdrawal, adding that him blaming others was ‘unseemly’ given that 2,448 US service members died in Afghanistan in 20 years. 

The RAF's frantic efforts to evacuate Britons and Afghan allies from Kabul have been continuing

The RAF’s frantic efforts to evacuate Britons and Afghan allies from Kabul have been continuing 

Priti Patel today batted away Tory calls to more than double the government's vow to take 20,000 Afghan refugees - but said the number of interpreters and support staff given safe haven will rise

Priti Patel today batted away Tory calls to more than double the government’s vow to take 20,000 Afghan refugees – but said the number of interpreters and support staff given safe haven will rise

Boris Johnson announced that up to 20,000 will be given the right to live here under a far-ranging new scheme – with 5,000 expected in the first year

Boris Johnson announced that up to 20,000 will be given the right to live here under a far-ranging new scheme – with 5,000 expected in the first year

‘The best solution for everyone is an Afghanistan that works for all Afghans. That means the international community coming together to set firm, political conditions for the country’s future governance.’

Home Secretary Priti Patel said the scheme would allow the ‘most vulnerable’ Afghans to ‘start a new life in safety in the UK, away from the tyranny and oppression they now face’.

‘We will not abandon people who have been forced to flee their homes and are now living in terror of what might come next,’ she added.

Afghans allowed to come to the UK will be distributed across the country, the Government indicated last night. A spokesman said it would work with the devolved administrations and local councils to make sure Afghans get help to rebuild their lives.

The new Afghan Citizens' Resettlement Scheme will focus on women and girls who fear their rights will be trampled under the 'Islamic Emirate' declared by the Taliban

The new Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme will focus on women and girls who fear their rights will be trampled under the ‘Islamic Emirate’ declared by the Taliban

Ministers had promised to set up a ‘generous’ and ‘world-leading’ programme to resettle those fleeing the new Taliban regime.

Ms Patel has been pressing members of the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence-sharing alliance that also includes the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand for ‘international collaboration on setting up safe and legal routes for Afghan refugees’.

The new Afghan programme will be modelled on the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme which launched in 2014 in conjunction with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

The UNHCR identifies potential cases for the UK to consider and applicants are then vetted by British officials.

Boris Johnson went for a run this morning before facing MP fury about the dramatic military meltdown in Afghanistan

Boris Johnson went for a run this morning before facing MP fury about the dramatic military meltdown in Afghanistan

A previous scheme for Syrian refugees cost about £8,000 per person – so the new commitments are likely to come with a huge price tag of up to £200million

A previous scheme for Syrian refugees cost about £8,000 per person – so the new commitments are likely to come with a huge price tag of up to £200million

The UK can reject cases on ‘security, war crimes or other grounds’, according to Home Office guidance. 

World leaders have shown varied reactions to the plight of Afghans. 

French president Emmanuel Macron came under fire last night after he said France would ‘protect’ itself from migrants fleeing the crisis in Afghanistan.

He faced accusations that he was letting down ordinary Afghans after he pledged a robust European approach against illegal migration.

Greece took a similar approach yesterday as it said it would not become ‘the gateway of Europe’ for Afghans fleeing the conflict.

The country was on the frontline of Europe’s migration crisis in 2015 and, like other EU member states, it is nervous developments in Afghanistan could trigger a replay of the situation.



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