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UK ‘reserving right’ to return to Afghanistan if terrorism grows

AT Monitoring Desk

KABUL: The UK and its allies “reserve the right” to launch new military action in Afghanistan should international terrorism thrive, the British government has said.

According to the UK’s Forces news outlet, defence minister James Heappey has left the door open for military action should “ungoverned spaces” return which pose a threat to the UK homeland or the interests of allies, as well as the option of providing air support to Afghan forces.

Heappey also suggested a review will be carried out into Britain’s military involvement in the country.

Around 750 UK personnel are currently in the country in a non-combat role, as part of a NATO mission, but are expected to withdraw, along with all other foreign troops by Sepember 11.

Heappey, spoke of his first reaction to news that international troops will withdraw later this year: “Like every other Afghanistan veteran when I heard of NATO’s decision last week, I couldn’t help but ask myself ‘was it all worth it’?”

Forces reported that he did, however, say he hopes there is a successful political outcome in Afghanistan. He told MPs it is “almost certain” that a lasting peace settlement will “involve the Taliban as part of the Afghan government”.

Defence Select Committee Chairman Tobias Ellwood meanwhile warned that Afghanistan is “heading towards another civil war” with the Taliban on the rise.

He said: “This cannot be the exit strategy we ever envisaged. “Our nation and our military deserve answers. “So, I request a Chilcot-style inquiry so we can learn the lessons of what went wrong.”

Heappey responded: “It’s not for me to agree to such an inquiry right now but one would hope the lessons would be learned.”

Former minister Ellwood had earlier told the Commons: “If we depart completely, a dangerous part of the world becomes more dangerous as the Taliban assumes control of the bulk of the country and, once again, gives sanctuary to extremist groups.

“Our brave military served with honour but they were let down by poor strategic judgments, that if politicians today do not understand and learn from will impede our confidence to step forward and stand up to extremism and authoritarianism in the future.”

Heappey said: “We have reached a point where the military mission has effectively culminated and what remains is a requirement for politics.”

Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey said Afghanistan has been “more failure than success” for the UK’s Armed Forces, reported Forces.

Addressing the Commons, he said: “There certainly have been some gains – governance, economic development, rights for women, education for girls, and ending Afghanistan as a base for terrorism abroad – but Afghanistan is more failure than success for the British military.

“And now with the full withdrawal of NATO troops, it’s hard to see a future without bloodier conflict, wider Taliban control and greater jeopardy for those Afghans who worked with the West, and for the women now in political, judicial, academic and business roles,” he said.

Heappey responded: “I’m not sure that I accept [Mr Healey’s] characterisation of it being defeat. I think that many of them, as I do, will reflect on the tactical and operational successes that they had within their individual tours, within the districts that they were responsible for.”

According to Forces, the discussion cames after the head of Britain’s Armed Forces expressed disappointment at US President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.

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