Monday, January 24

Boris Johnson Admits Concern Over Afghanistan With UK Withdrawal | Foreign policy


Boris Johnson has admitted that he is “concerned” about the future of Afghanistan, as he confirmed that the UK government would mark the end of a 20-year deployment to the country when it gives a statement to parliamentarians on Thursday.

The prime minister said he thought the current situation in the country was “fraught with risk” as the Taliban advanced rapidly, expressing reservations for the first time in public as the final withdrawal comes to an end.

“If you ask me if I am happy with the current situation in Afghanistan, of course not. I’m concerned, ”Johnson said as he testified to the chairpersons of the selected committees on the parliamentary liaison committee.

The UK has previously indicated that its 750 remaining soldiers, mainly dedicated to training the Afghan army, were leaving only because it would be impossible to protect them once the majority of the 2,500-strong US fighting force had left the country. UK troops ended combat operations in 2014, but stayed as part of a 7,500-strong NATO mission.

“We have to be absolutely realistic about the situation we find ourselves in, and what we have to hope is that the blood and treasure spent by this country for decades to protect the people of Afghanistan has not been in vain,” Johnson said in response to a question from Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the foreign affairs committee.

A total of 454 British soldiers have died in Afghanistan, just over 400 of them killed as a result of hostile action, since the UK first invaded together with the US at the start of the “war on terror” after 11/11. of September.

Thousands more people have died in the conflict, including more than 50,000 Afghan civilians and 2,300 US soldiers. But with the resurgence of the Taliban, more and more questions are being raised about whether the mission was worth it.

Johnson said a final peace deal would have to involve forces the UK and others had been fighting. “We must hope that the parties in Kabul can come together to reach an agreement, and one way or another we must hope that an agreement is finally found with the Taliban.”

He went on to tell committee members that he would make a statement to mark the completion of the deployment on Thursday. In the morning, it will also clarify the UK’s future diplomatic and military stance towards Afghanistan.

Ministers signed a plan at a meeting of the national security council this week, and Johnson is expected to confirm Thursday that the UK will maintain an embassy in Kabul. It had been considered whether UK troops would remain to keep an eye on him, but sources said contractors would continue the task for now.

Ministers have been eager to avoid a high-profile exit moment and, unlike in 2014, journalists have not been invited into the country to commemorate the event. The British flag has already been hoisted at Kabul International Airport, and other departing forces have quietly carried out their own departure ceremonies.

Johnson was pressed by Bernard Jenkin, the chairman of the liaison committee, on whether the UK would carry out a public inquiry into the long deployment. Johnson said he would not “improvise” before Thursday and asked MPs to “question me” at that time.

US and NATO troops had been working to meet the operational withdrawal deadline of last Sunday, July 4, when the United States suddenly left the strategic Bagram airbase the day before. But after Joe Biden resisted making an announcement over the US Independence Day holiday weekend, progress stalled.


www.theguardian.com

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