Ex-UK leader Tony Blair criticises western 'abandonment' of Afghanistan

Former Middle East envoy says pull-back was 'driven not by grand strategy but by politics'

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has slammed the decision to pull out of Afghanistan in an article.  Amr Nabil/AP Photo
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Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has accused western nations of abandoning Afghanistan and described the withdrawal from the country as "unnecessary" and "dangerous".

"The abandonment of Afghanistan and its people is tragic, dangerous, unnecessary, not in their interests and not in ours," he stated in an article published on Saturday for the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change.

"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".

The public remarks are his first since Taliban fighters seized Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, causing the country to collapse into disarray.

In a wide-ranging article, Mr Blair said the troop withdrawal was a major strategic error and asked if it represented an "epoch-changing retreat".

He also attacked political calculations made in Washington which brought the conflict to such a humiliating conclusion.

"We didn't need to do it. We chose to do it. We did it in obedience to an imbecilic political slogan about ending 'the forever wars'", he added.

In addition, he said the withdrawal would leave extremist groups around the world "cheering" and would embolden states such as Iran and Russia.

"Russia, China and Iran will see and take advantage. Anyone given commitments by Western Leaders will understandably regard them as unstable currency."

Mr Blair, who was in power between 1997 and 2007, brought Britain to war in Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks.

However, military interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan as part of George W Bush's so-called war on terror came at a political cost and affected Mr Blair's popularity at home.

"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", he says in the article.

"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 also called for a strategic rethink of how the West addresses "radical Islam" while launching a limited defence of Western interventionism.

"We have learnt the perils of intervention in the way we intervened in Afghanistan, Iraq and indeed Libya. But non intervention is also policy with consequence," Mr Blair stated.

"What is absurd is to believe the choice is between what we did in the first decade after 9/11 and the retreat we are witnessing now."

Updated: August 22, 2021, 11:35 AM