You should never underestimate your adversaries. I recall that in the ‘Cameron camp’ during our years of frustration as the Official Opposition, we never underestimated the skills of Tony Blair as the consummate political performer. We even used to refer to him as ‘The Master’. Clearly, you cannot win 3 general elections in a row with majorities to dream of, without an immense ability to manage your political party and to reach out beyond your committed and faithful supporters. I always saw Tony Blair as a political ‘star’ of similar calibre to Bill Clinton in the USA. All this, without sharing his political outlook or his policies… that is until now:
When Blair spoke out last week about the ‘imbecilic’ decision to leave Afghanistan in the way that the US Biden administration did, I do not think I could have come up with a better way of describing it. A monumental strategic error has been made.
After a twenty-year commitment, expensive in both lives and money, I entirely understand the urge to withdraw. But to do so without first establishing the capabilities of Afghan forces, and to do so in a way that so undermined their morale, and to have done it during the Taliban’s fighting season instead of waiting till winter until they return to their tribal fastness, and to have done it with so little planning for the detailed logistics of withdrawal, all of this amounts to an enormous blunder with incalculable consequences.
A Regime that assassinated female judges, female TV presenters, bombed girl schools, markets and weddings has been handed control. It remains intimately connected with Al Qaeda; it has released 500 of the world’s most dangerous terrorists which we left imprisoned at Bagram -when so much sacrifice went into their capture. And now we discover that we have left them with the pick of $85 billion’s worth of the most modern weapons. Frankly, it is just incredible that such an act of self-harm could have been allowed to happen.
So, were the billions of pounds that we spent and the British lives that we sacrificed, in vain?
I certainly don’t believe so: Hundreds of terrorist outrages were prevented by the work of our troops in Afghanistan.
It was a righteous cause and the years of education and healthcare that improved so many lives were certainly of enormous benefit to millions.
The one bright spot of the last few days has been the magnificent performance of our Armed Forces in the most difficult and stressful of circumstances, evacuating 15,000 souls in the last fortnight, retaining their professionalism and efficiency in the face of such extremes of human misery. They really are The Best.
…and Gazing at the photograph of our paratroopers crammed aboard the military aircraft bringing them home, there isn’t a Covid mask to be seen. Hallelujah!