Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair blasted the US’s withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan as “imbecilic,” saying the move has “every Jihadist group round the world celebrating.”
The former Labor Party leader, who deployed British troops to Afghanistan 20 years ago, said the US pullout has endangered the world.
“The abandonment of Afghanistan and its people is tragic, dangerous, unnecessary, not in their interests and not in ours,” Blair wrote in a lengthy essay posted on The Tony Blair Institute for Global Change website.
“The world is now uncertain of where the West stands because it is so obvious that the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan in this way was driven not by grand strategy but by politics,” he wrote, saying the move will only embolden terrorists.
He accused President Joe Biden of adhering to “an imbecilic political slogan about ending ‘forever wars,’ as if our engagement in 2021 was remotely comparable to our commitment 20 or even 10 years ago.”
Blair was prime minister between 1997 and 2007 and in office when the US sent troops into Afghanistan following the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, with British troops also being deployed.
He said the chaotic withdrawal after two decades by the Biden administration has allowed the Taliban to return to power, has put American civilians and Afghans at risk and has raised questions about the West’s commitment to stand by its allies.
Blair said the US and its Western allies were motivated in Afghanistan to turn a “failed terror state into a functioning democracy on the mend.”
“It may have been a misplaced ambition, but it was not an ignoble one. There is no doubt that in the years that followed we made mistakes, some serious. But the reaction to our mistakes has been, unfortunately, further mistakes,” Blair continued.
“Today we are in a mood that seems to regard the bringing of democracy as a utopian delusion and intervention, virtually of any sort, as a fool’s errand,” he said.
Blair said the war in Afghanistan resulted in advances in living standards, new rights for girls and women and gains in freedom, “something worth defending. Worth protecting.”
Looking ahead, Blair said the West will have to “give tangible demonstration that we are not” in retreat.
“This demands an immediate response in respect of Afghanistan. And then measured and clear articulation of where we stand for the future,” Blair said.
And he laid out the mission ahead.
“We must evacuate and give sanctuary to those to whom we have responsibility – those Afghans who helped us, stood by us and have a right to demand we stand by them,” he said. “There must be no repetition of arbitrary deadlines. We have a moral obligation to keep at it until all those who need to be are evacuated. And we should do so not grudgingly but out of a deep sense of humanity and responsibility.”