Tony Blair, the former British Prime Minister, on Saturday criticized the withdrawal from Afghanistan, calling it a hasty gesture “in obedience to a foolish political slogan to end” eternal wars “.
As Prime Minister, Mr. Blair sent British troops to Afghanistan and Iraq, supporting President George W. Bush’s decision to invade both countries after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. These conflicts helped to build Mr Blair’s legacy, particularly the war in Iraq, which a British investigation later found to have been promoted with intelligence that falsely exaggerated the threats posed by Saddam Hussein’s government.
In his statement on Saturday, Blair acknowledged unspecified mistakes in the 20 years of military engagement in Afghanistan, some of them serious. But he said the chaotic retreat would undermine faith in the West and sacrifice fragile improvements in the lives of Afghans.
“And for anyone who disputes this, read the heartbreaking laments from every section of Afghan society as to what they fear losing now,” Mr Blair wrote. “The gains in living standards, especially the education of girls, the gains in freedom. Not about what we hoped or wanted. But not nothing. Something worth defending, worth protecting.
Mr. Blair did not mention President Biden by name in his statement. But he argued that leaving Afghanistan raised the question of whether the West had lost its strategic will and that this had resulted in a humiliation that would be hailed by jihadist groups and exploited by China, Iran and Russia. .
The Taliban should be seen as part of a larger ideology of what he called “radical Islam” that should continue to concern the West, Mr Blair argued, although some believe that the Afghanistan itself has little geopolitical significance.
“If we had defined it as a strategic challenge and had seen it as a whole and not as parts, we would never have made the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan,” he wrote.
He called on the West to exert pressure on the Taliban, including potential incentives as well as sanctions, to protect Afghan civilians.
“It’s urgent,” he wrote. “The disarray of the past few weeks needs to be replaced with something that looks like consistency, and with a credible and realistic plan. But then we have to answer this overarching question. What are our strategic interests and are we prepared to commit ourselves longer to defend them?